Country music legend Dolly Parton said she was inspired by her father to start her global children's book initiative Imagination Library, saying it broke her heart that he felt ashamed that he couldn't read or write.

The free book programme involves posting children a book a month from the time they're born until they start school. It has already gifted 200,000 storybooks to Irish pre-school children and many millions more to children around the world.

Speaking on Friday night's Late Late Show, the beloved entertainer told host Ryan Tubridy: "My dad, even though he could not read nor write, he was one of the smartest people I have ever known. He had twelve kids so he had to figure out how to feed them. He knew how to get out and make a buck.

"He felt crippled by the fact that he couldn't read and write. It used to break my heart that he felt ashamed that he couldn't read or write.

"I told daddy 'You'd be shocked to know how many millions of people in this world can't read or write'. I tried to make him feel as good about that as I could.

"And I got him involved when I started it, that's the main reason I started it."

Parton appeared on the show from Nashville, Tennessee, alongside bestselling author James Patterson, with whom she has collaborated on their new novel Run Rose Run.

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Patterson stressed the importance of literacy, telling Tubridy: "It saves lives, it literally saves lives, especially in this country. A lot of kids would not wind up in jail if they could have learned to read and gotten through high school."

He also opened up about how the idea for their partnership came about.

"I just had a rough idea for a novel about somebody who makes it big. You could have all the talent in the world and not make it. Dolly and I both came from tough towns and villages and the odds against us were huge," he explained.

"The main character in this book, the odds against her making it are incredible, even though she's talented."

Parton continued: "He said 'I'd like to write a novel with you' and I said 'Ok, what's it going to be about?' He said 'I thought maybe we'd write something about the music business and women in the music business'.

"And then I got the idea to write the songs, to make the album, because that's what I do."

Patterson said of pulling the project together: "It was a challenge, we didn't know if we would be able to pull it off. That's what makes it really exciting."

Tubridy brought up the rumblings of a movie adaptation.

Parton replied: "We're talking about it."

"Everybody wants Dolly to be in the movie," Patterson shared.

She added: "The older woman who has done it all, she's a mentor of the new girl coming along, I think that's the perfect character for me, so I'm planning to play that.

"The movie is underway. Hopefully within a year and a half or two years it will be on the screen."

The Late Late Show airs on Friday nights at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.