More than 20 excited preschool students sat on the carpet in their classroom Wednesday afternoon as Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine read stories.
Dewine read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, during her stop at Nurture Preschool and Childcare.
Every child received a copy of “Peter Rabbit ‘to take home.
Dewine said she believes bonding starts when you put those books in homes.
“Not everybody is going to do it, but there is a lot more chance that those kids are going to make somebody read to them,” DeWine said.
She said time spent reading – whether with parents, grandparents or older siblings – is time they are bonding, and developing that family bonding and establishing bedtime with books are things that are important to a child.
The story time session was part of DeWine’s effort to promote the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program.
The program allows every child from newborn to age 5, in the stateio to receive a free book in the mail each month.
Children who are registered at birth will receive 60 books over the course of the five years.
Dewine said she became interested in the program after watching her grandchildren get their books in the mail and seeing how excited they were as they screamed “Read to me, read to me.”
The program was formed in 2019, after DeWine started looking for ways to make the books available to all children regardless of financial situation or location. Financial support comes from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Ohio legislature and organizations in each county such as the United Way.
Dewine said reading to children early on is one of the most important things to do for them.
She believes Ohio will be stronger in the future as more children are exposed to books and reading early on, because they will have a better chance at success later in life.
DeWine noted there have been several studies that show if children do not have books or they start kindergarten without books, they are less likely to graduate high school.
“That’s why I do this, because it’s getting books into the hands of those kids,” DeWine said.
DeWine believes having the books and having the kids excited will encourage parents to read to them.
“I think every parent really wants to be a better parent and this helps them,” DeWine said. “There are a lot of distractions these days, electronics, but the bond you get reading with that child is really very special.”
As of the beginning of April, 44% of eligible statewide children are enrolled in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. This month 316,435 children have received free books in the mail. Since August of 2019, 7.2 million books have been mailed to Ohio children.
Forty children in Guernsey County are enrolled in the program, which is administered through the local United Way. To enroll, visit www.ohioimaginationlibrary.org.