For 10 years, they’ve helped make Middletown kids better readers. Here’s how.

The ninth annual Let Imagination Bloom Luncheon hopes to generate money for a program that provides free books to children in five area school districts.

Proceeds will benefit the Middletown Area Chapter of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library that started 10 years ago serving students in the Middletown City School District. Since then, the book program has expanded to serve children in Monroe, Edgewood, Madison and Franklin school districts.

RELATED: Free book program boosts Middletown’s third-grade reading scores

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was started by the Middletown Community Foundation, and leaders have said those children who receive monthly free books score higher on reading tests than those students not enrolled in the program.

To participate in the program, a child must be under the age of 5 and reside within the Middletown, Monroe, Edgewood, Madison or Franklin school district boundaries. A different age-appropriate, expert-selected book arrives in the child’s mailbox each month at no cost to participating families regardless of income. Parents may register using a paper form available from the MCT or online at

The program isn’t economically driven, said Elaine Garver, a committee member.

“This is an opportunity to get book in all children hands,” said Garver, who added each book includes a reading guide for parents.

The free book program has shown improvement in Middletown’s third grade reading scores.

The group looked at four years of data and saw that for each individual year, more children who had received Imagination Library books passed the third grade reading test than those who were not part of the program prior to kindergarten.

The test results spanned four consecutive third grade classes. The first class, 2012, saw a nine percent difference between the two groups. The second class saw an 11 percent difference. The third class saw a six percent difference, and the fourth class saw a 14 percent difference.

The goal, Garver said, is to raise $30,000 at the luncheon, about half what is needed to maintain the program for one year.

Cea Cohen Elliott, the featured speaker the first year, is returning for the group’s 10-year celebration, said Ginger Bruggeman, a committee member. She said this is the ninth luncheon, but the group’s 10th anniversary because the group spent its first year raising funds to expand the program to Monroe, Edgewood and Madison school districts.

Elliott is a motivational speaker, wellness and fitness coach, and seminar and workshop leader. Bruggeman said Elliott’s humor-filled motivational presentations have been experienced by thousands whose lives have been “changed forever…for the better.”

Garver called Elliott “very entertaining” and she understands the importance of early childhood development.

“She’s been a great support for us,” Garver said of the Beavercreek resident.

Jan Sherbin, author of the Fiona Book “Hip, Hippo Hooray for FIONA!,” will be at the event for book signing. The books will be available at the luncheon.


WHAT: Let Imagination Bloom Luncheon

WHERE: Majors Event Barn, 6393 Ohio 63, Monroe

GUEST SPEAKER: Cea Cohen Elliott

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 7

HOW MUCH: $30. Lunch provided by Two Women In A Kitchen

CALL: 513-424-7369. Deadline is March 28 and all seats are reserved.

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