The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library

Date: October 08, 2021

All Ohio children to the age of 5 can receive a free book each month

Founding

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine first fell in love with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) when she saw its impact on her grandchildren several years ago. At that time, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was only available in pockets of Ohio, including Greene County where her grandchildren were enrolled.

She saw how her grandchildren reacted to their books—pure excitement over a new book being mailed to them, not their parents.

When Mrs. DeWine became Ohio’s First Lady, she explored ways to bring this program to every child in Ohio, regardless of their zip code. With financial support from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Ohio Legislature, and affiliates in each county, the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library was formed in 2019.  

A partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income.

Dolly Parton founded the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 1995 as a tribute to her dad, who did not know how to read. It quickly expanded from her home county (Sevier County, TN) to a statewide program in Tennessee in 2004, and has grown nationally and globally since.

As of August 2021, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gifted over 165,176,249 free books since its inception.

The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to ensure that all kids in Ohio between birth and age 5 are eligible to be enrolled for free.

General Information

The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library is a program that provides every Ohio child from birth to age 5 with a free book each month. Through a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, this program is free to all families in Ohio.

All parents have to do is enroll their kids at OhioImaginationLibrary.org.

Age-appropriate books are selected by a panel of early childhood literacy experts.

Each series of books contains certain characteristics specific to its age appropriateness.

  • For newborns, books’ characteristics include bright visions and minimal text.
  • For kids who are 4 years old, book characteristics include more complex stories, with themes of play, humor, and fun.

The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library prioritized expanding this program statewide as quickly as possible. All kids, regardless of their zip code, should have access to these free, high-quality, age-appropriate books.

Last fall (November 2020), the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library became a statewide program, available in all 88 counties.  

The Ohio General Assembly has included funding for the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, which helps to serve as a 50% match in covering the cost. The other 50% is from affiliates in each county. This partnership with affiliates ensures that we can continue to provide this program free to all kids who enroll.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has partnered with American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. (APH) to make many of the books free and available in braille and audio format.

Research

Brain science shows a child’s brain is already 80% developed by the time he or she turns three years old. Those first three years are so critical to their development.

A Cincinnati Children’s Hospital study found that after three years, kids in the program scored a 15% improvement in their kindergarten readiness assignment. That put them on the starting line with other kids entering kindergarten across Ohio.

Newborns

When a newborn is enrolled, they will receive the full 60 books from the Imagination Library before entering kindergarten.

  • The first book all kids receive is The Little Engine That Could
  • The final book all kids receive is Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!
  • The list of 2021 can be viewed here

Family Time

Having these books in the home means there’s a better chance someone will read to the child. This is an additional opportunity for parents and siblings to bond with kids, and foster a love of reading and learning.

Incorporating reading regularly in a child’s life is important for so many reasons. It better prepares them to enter kindergarten, strengthens their vocabulary, expands their speech, helps to create a regular routine, and so much more.  

There is even a Storybook Trail for families to spend time in Ohio State Parks. 

Enrollment Numbers

As of October 2021, 41% of eligible kids statewide are enrolled in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. 

  • This means that more than 292,000 kids are receiving free monthly books!

A county-by-county breakdown, along with a list of affiliates, can be found on the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library website under the enrollment tab– https://ohioimaginationlibrary.org/local-imagination-library-locator

Related Content: NFIB in My State | Grassroots | Ohio

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