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Dolly Parton visits Ohio to celebrate growth of Imagination Library

Program provides free books to all Ohio kids age 0-5
Posted at 11:44 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 18:41:52-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Country music superstar Dolly Parton visited Columbus Tuesday to celebrate the success of her Imagination Library program in Ohio.

Parton spoke and performed at First Lady Fran DeWine's luncheon at 12 p.m. Tuesday. Watch her a video of her visit in the player below:

Dolly Parton visits Ohio to celebrate growth of Imagination Library

"I’m just so honored to know that the little program we started all those many years ago has really become one of the greatest things I’ve ever done in my life," Parton said.

The legendary singer told the crowd she grew up visiting family often in Cleveland, Akron and Willoughby.

RELATED: DeWine declares Aug. 9 'Dolly Parton Day' as country singer visits her 'Imagination Library' in Columbus

News 5 covered the program from its early beginnings in Northeast Ohio, when it was available in just a small selection of communities.

The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library was formally created in 2019 and originally was only available in a select few counties. By the end of 2020, the program became available for all families for free, regardless of where they lived.

"When we first started the Imagination Library, it was only available in pockets of the state and now it’s available to every child under the age of 5," Fran DeWine said.

RELATED: 1 million books and counting: Imagination Library fosters love of reading among children in Summit and Medina counties

Last month, the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library became Dolly Parton's Imagination Library of Ohio.

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The percentage of eligible kids enrolled in the program divided by county.

Organizers said more than 327,000 kids are enrolled in Ohio’s Imagination Library, amounting to about 45% of those eligible between newborns until 5 years old.

Joan Spoerl, director of Imagination Library with Literacy Cooperative told News 5 that their on the ground work in Cuyahoga County over the years has led to more than a million books distributed in the county.

"The more exposure children get to books and reading, the better," she explained. "We know the critical window for language development in the brain is the first two years of life. The first five years are the critical window for brain development and language development."

All kids living in Ohio between birth and 5 years old are eligible to enroll in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library of Ohio. To sign up and learn more, click here.

Clay LePard is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @ClayLePard or on Facebook Clay LePard News 5

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