Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine visits hospital in Hamilton to promote Imagination Library program for children

HAMILTON — Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine was back at Kettering Health Hamilton for one of the first times since her second child, Jill, was delivered there 52 years ago.

A lot has changed since 1969 when Gov. Mike DeWine and his wife, then seniors at Miami University and married for two years, had their second child. There have been tremendous medical advancements and the hospital’s name has switched from Fort Hamilton.

But the importance of bonding between mother and her newborn and brain development that occurs while a baby hears words being read are timeless, she said.

“That’s a critical time for learning,” DeWine said Monday morning while touring the Special Care Nursery at the hospital.

DeWine also met with Kettering Health officials and chatted with a first-time mother, Emily Walker, who told DeWine she had signed up her daughter, Allison, for the book program.

DeWine also thanked staff for enrolling newborns in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. She said Ohio has enrolled 300,000 kids in the program that provides one age-appropriate book each month from birth until the child’s fifth birthday. All kids in Ohio are eligible to be enrolled in the program at no cost to their family, she said.

The Middletown Community Foundation, then under the direction of T. Duane Gordon, started the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in 2008 and expanded it throughout the region. Ten years later, the Butler County Area United Way took over the book program and then all communities in the county became eligible.

At about the same time, an Imagination Library program that learned from Middletown’s success started in Greene County, where the DeWines live. She was home one day watching her grandchildren when their Imagination Library books arrived in the mail.

“I didn’t know anything about the program,” she said. “My grandchildren said, ‘Read to me, read to me grandma.’”

When Mike was elected Ohio governor and took office in 2019, his wife promoted literacy through the Imagination Library, she said. She said every book costs $2.10, including shipping, thanks to Dolly Parton and the cost is divided between the state of Ohio and the affiliates in all 88 counties.

“It’s a simple program,” she said.


On-line: www.OhioImaginationLibrary.org

In person: Any public library


  • Children with just 25 books in their home are more likely to complete an additional two years of school.
  • A child who can’t read well is four times more likely to drop out of high school, decreasing job prospects and earning potential.
  • After Cincinnati Children’s Hospital began its partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read, Kindergarten Readiness Assessments rose 15.4% among participating children in three years.
  • The human brain is at 80% of its full size by age 3. Voluntary development by 3 has been shown to predict a child’s achievement by third grade.

SOURCE: Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library

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