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Imagination Library

Apr 20, 2020
at 9:00 am
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Why Early Childhood Literacy?

Across the state of Ohio, there are men and women who struggle to read a food label, follow their doctor’s written instructions, or read a bus schedule.  Each of these individuals is just one of the 36 million American adults who are considered functionally illiterate.  This simple fact of literacy is one of the single greatest predictors of a person’s ability to succeed. 
A child who can’t read well is four times more likely to drop out of high school before graduation.  Ohio’s Future at Work found that in the state of Ohio 24% of adults do not have a high school diploma.  At the same time, 87% of the jobs available on are closed to someone without a high school diploma, thereby drastically decreasing the chances of someone who is functionally illiterate finding a job that will give them independence to support themselves and their family. 

We can change that.  Education is the path to a successful life, and literacy is the handrail.  Developing literacy begins at birth.  By the age of three, a child’s brain is already 80% developed, and, by the time a child enters kindergarten, they must already know thousands of words in order to succeed in the classroom.  What is the best way to ensure a child is armed with the knowledge they need to succeed?  Reading aloud to that child and giving them access to books. 
Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library
That’s where the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library comes in.  Through Ohio’s partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, we are working to send every child in Ohio from birth to age five a new book each month.  Research has shown that a child with 25 books in their home completes an average of two additional years of schooling compared to their peers without books in their home.  Our goal is that every kindergartener begins school with 60 books in their home. 
Governor and Mrs. Mike DeWine are determined that every child in Ohio have the gift of early childhood literacy.  They became aware of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library while reading to their grandchildren.  As a result, Governor and Mrs. DeWine and local community leaders are creating county-wide programs in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. 
In July 2019, the Ohio legislature included $5 million over the next two years to jump start the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, providing matching funds to local dollars raised for the program.  Over 60 Ohio counties have a limited form of the program.  Few have county-wide programs and Warren County is one of the first.
Warren County Imagination Library
Warren County has boldly decided to implement the Imagination Library countywide.  The Warren County Imagination Library has been formed to move forward in an effort to deliver books to all children from birth to age 5.  The theme of this program is “Every Child Reads Every Day.”  Our goal is “20 for 20” – 20,000 books delivered to Warren County children in 2020. 
In early November 2019, Commissioner Shannon Jones convened a group of Warren County leaders at the Warren County Foundation to learn about the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library.  Within a few weeks, the five library districts decided to fund a three-year pilot program.  The Warren County Literacy Fund has been established for this purpose.
During the pilot program, a permanent endowment campaign will raise $5 million to support the program forever.  A nine-member governance team guides the process in Warren County.  Pat Dubbs, Superintendent of Wayne Local Schools and Kelly Maloney, Director of Mary L. Cook Public Library sit on the nine-member governance board. 
Join the Biggest Civic Engagement in Warren County History
The founding partners include:  Franklin-Springboro Public Library, Lebanon Public Library, Mary L. Cook Public Library, Mason Public Library, Salem Township Public Library, United Way of Warren County, and Warren County Foundation.  Children can be registered at  We know that technical issues could potentially turn parents off and a missed opportunity for their child(ren).  Currently Kelly Maloney and her staff at Mary L. Cook Public Library are available to troubleshoot issues.  Questions regarding registration should be addressed to  All efforts to personally answer each email is the goal.  In just the first days of going live with the Warren County initiative, we’ve already registered 1,500 Warren County youngsters.
Our endowment campaign will target individuals, business community, foundations, school government, non-profits and service clubs.  New partners are joining every day.  For more information, direct questions or inquiries to Warren County Imagination Library (Warren County Foundation), 118 East Main Street, Lebanon, OH 45036; Phone (513) 254-1001 or email:  This endeavor offers the opportunity for a generational change for Warren County.

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