COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine welcomed Dolly Parton to Ohio Tuesday to celebrate the statewide success of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Ohio, where every child under the age of 5 is eligible.
The 2022 Inaugural First Lady’s Luncheon supported Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio, a passion of First Lady DeWine.
Currently, 343,490 children are enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio, which means 48% of eligible children between birth to age 5 years old are enrolled in the program, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“It is an incredible honor to host Dolly Parton and celebrate the success of her book gifting program here in Ohio,” said First Lady Fran DeWine. “Ohio’s Imagination Library is thriving, and we are truly blessed to have so many supporters of the program in every community across our great state. These books are changing the lives of so many children and preparing them for kindergarten—and life!”
During the luncheon, Fran DeWine hosted a fireside chat with Parton, who explained how important the Imagination Library is to her.
In 1995, Parton created Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for children living in Sevier County, Tennessee. She was initially inspired to create the Imagination Library by her father, who was illiterate. Since 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has expanded nationally and internationally.
The program was brought statewide to Ohio in 2019, under the guidance of Fran DeWine.
Parton and Fran DeWine were each gifted a quilt from Ohio’s Imagination Library’s affiliates. Both quilts include 88 squares, one for each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Each county affiliate worked with a group of preschoolers in their community to design a square representing their county.
“I was so excited to join Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine today in celebrating my Imagination Library being available for every child in Ohio!” said Parton.
More local reading initiatives
The DeWines recently joined Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz to open two new Storybook Trails in Cowan Lake State Park and Rocky Fork State Park.
ODNR is offering more communities a path to encourage childhood literacy, a love of nature, and healthy living for families, through a partnership with the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
At this Cowan Lake State Park Storybook Trail, families can read “Shh! Bears Sleeping” by David Martin. This story takes children on an adventure through the seasons in the eyes of a mama bear and her cubs.
Also, a group of local residents places children’s books on bookshelves in laundromats around the county.
Last year the News Journal featured the Clinton County Laundromat Libraries, a county-wide project with a mission to get books into the hands and homes of children across the county.
The group is grateful that the owners of these laundromats said “yes” when they were approached about the idea — Anytime Laundry on South South Street in Wilmington; Anytime Laundry on Rombach in Wilmington; Scrubbing Bubbles in Blanchester; and Self-Service Laundry in Sabina.
In the beginning, Karen Long, former Wilmington City Schools educator, read about how laundromats in Milwaukee were creating library spaces in laundromats for children. She knew that we could do the same thing right here in Clinton County.
The project has grown to include team leaders at each laundromat and partnerships with people and organizations across the county.
In Wilmington, the leaders are Wilmington elementary teacher Marci (Murphy) Huelskamp and Elizabeth Huber. In Blanchester, it’s Theresa Jenkins. And in Sabina, it’s Brenda Woods. Other library champions include Dauna Armstrong, Karen Carter, and Eleanor Harris and her granddaughter, Tiara.
“We are so thankful to have the opportunity to pride free books,” said Huber.
In addition, the project is supported and endorsed by all of the Clinton County librarians and staff.