XENIA — It won’t be long before every child in Ohio under five-years-old is eligible to receive a free book each month.
That’s what Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine told members of the Beavercreek, Fairborn, and Xenia Rotary clubs during a combined meeting at the REACH Center Tuesday. DeWine updated the clubs on the status of the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, an offshoot of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which began in Tennessee.
Like its national partner, the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library provides a free book each month to children from birth to age five. Around 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties are already signed up and DeWine said 20 more are almost ready to launch their initiatives. Each county must fund itself and in July 2019, the Ohio legislature included $5 million over the next two years to help match what each county raises. Clinton, Highland, and Warren counties in Southwest Ohio are set to launch their programs Friday.
“It’s just such a great program,” DeWine said. “I think it’s making a difference for the kids here in Greene County.”
DeWine said the program can make an even bigger difference in inner cities and Appalachia.
The Greene County program launched in 2013, with Kay Webster, former coordinator of youth services, leading the charge. The Rotary clubs were among those heavily involved with the final piece coming from Soin Medical Center and Greene Memorial Hospital in the form of $60,000, according to Greene County Library Executive Director Karl Colón.
Colón said Terry Burns, who was president of Soin and GMH at the time, had asked when the library would “pull the trigger.” Informed the library was still short on money, Burns offered assistance.
“He said, ‘Oh, I’ll take care of the money,’ ” Colón said.
The first book kids receive — regardless of when they sign up — is “The Little Engine That Could.” The final book is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I come.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.