COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Ohio’s first family celebrates the holiday season, First Lady Fran DeWine is helping children get a free gift every month in the mail.
DeWine has teamed up with country superstar Dolly Parton, whose Imagination Library is aimed at kids five years old and younger.
“I learned about this program when I was with my grandkids,” Fran DeWine said. “One day, when the mail came and they got this book, they ripped off the plastic and read to me, read to me grandma and I thought, ‘This is really a wonderful program. I would love to see this for every child in Ohio.'”
DeWine decided to partner with Parton to promote and expand Parton’s Imagination Library in Ohio. 43% of Ohio kids under five years old are signed up, totaling about 300,000 children.
“That’s more than any other state in the Union. Tennessee has a higher percentage, but no state has 300,000, so we really are the top signed up state,” DeWine said.
Every child five and under is eligible and there is a big push to get newborns signed up before they go home from the hospital.
“Having the books in the home makes such a difference,” DeWine said. “There’s a couple of things we know. We know a child’s brain is 80% developed by the time they are three years old, so we don’t want to waste that time . .. there was a study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and those kids, just after getting the books for three years, came up 15 points on kindergarten readiness.”
Ready to read, ready to learn, and ready to imagine.