(CLEVELAND, Ohio)—Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine focused on early childhood literacy in Northeast Ohio today, starting with a tour of University Hospitals (UH) Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and MacDonald Women’s Hospital in Cuyahoga County to learn about the ways UH is promoting Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio has enrolled 358,550 kids, totaling nearly 50% of eligible children within Ohio. The Imagination Library mails kids one high-quality, age-appropriate book each month until their 5th birthday. All Ohio children – from birth to age 5 – are eligible at no cost to families.
“I love traveling Ohio to see how our amazing partners, like leaders at University Hospitals, are helping to enroll young families so that more free books get into the hands of children,” said Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine. “Several Ohio-based research studies, including one done at Case Western Reserve University, show the positive impact Imagination Library books have in a home, particularly better-preparing kids for kindergarten.”
After the UH tour, First Lady DeWine participated in a roundtable discussion with hospital leaders and community partners who are helping our youngest Ohioans get an early start on reading. Brain science shows a child’s brain is already 80% developed by the time he or she turns three years old. Ohio-based research shows the longer a Cuyahoga County student is enrolled in the Imagination Library, the higher his or her Kindergarten Readiness Assessment score, which is used to measure a student’s skill level in being able to grasp instruction.
“Reading to infants and children is so important. Countless studies have shown a connection between a babies’ language exposure and their neurodevelopmental outcomes. Reading also supports family bonding, and decreases stress related to hospitalization,” said Patti DePompei, RN, MSN, President, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s and UH MacDonald Women’s hospitals and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Foundation Chair in Leadership and Innovation. “We are proud to actively support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio and connect our patients and families to these wonderful opportunities to hopefully develop a lifelong love of books.”
UH leaders share First Lady DeWine’s passion for reading, an activity that supports a child’s brain development. In addition to assisting families with registration for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio, each family that has a baby at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital receives a bag filled with baby-friendly board books, literature on healthy parenting tips, and the option to activate the baby’s first library card. It’s part of the UH Baby’s First Books program.
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s has also been a longtime participant in the national Reach Out and Read program. Most recently, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital became the first-of-its-kind in Ohio to bring Reach Out and Read to patients in the hospital.
Just last month, the UH Rainbow’s NICU participated in its third read-a-thon through the Babies with Books program. The 10-day event brings together 200+ NICUs around the world in a friendly competition to celebrate and encourage reading with doctors, nurses, therapists, volunteers, and family members reading at least one story each day to every baby.
First Lady DeWine has been working to partner with Ohio birthing hospitals, like UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital. If parents sign up their newborn for the Imagination Library, that child will receive 60 books, taking full advantage of all the free books the program has to offer Ohio families.
Parents and caregivers can sign up children for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library books here.