Jul 22, 2022 - News

Ohio Imagination Library trying to boost local participation

Participation rate of Ohio Imagination Library, by county
Data: Ohio Governor's Imagination Library; Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

Franklin County has been slow to participate in Imagination Library, the statewide program providing free books to young children.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of local families are missing out on a free program that helps with vital reading lessons and fosters a lifelong love of reading.

How it works: Kids ages 0-5 years old receive one free book in the mail each month.

  • "The Little Engine That Could" is always the first book, followed by familiar classics like "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Tale of Peter Rabbit."
  • The state program, founded in 2019, recently merged with a similar initiative organized by Dolly Parton.
  • Ohio spends $8 million per year on the Imagination Library, with additional funding coming from local affiliate groups and donations.

By the numbers: Just 37% of the approximately 83,000 eligible children in Franklin County are signed up to receive books, one of the lowest participation rates in Ohio.

  • All six surrounding counties are higher, with four boasting rates above 50%.

Zoom in: Nationwide Children's Hospital serves as the Franklin County affiliate, paying 50% of the local cost and managing the database of children. Schools, nonprofits and libraries help to promote enrollment.

  • Organizers work closely with birthing hospitals to encourage enrollment from the day a child is born, program spokesperson Catherine Sulecki tells Axios.

💭 Tyler's thought bubble: My pregnant wife and I learned about the Imagination Library at a city-organized "community baby shower" last month.

  • To us, it seems like a no brainer. We plan to register our newborn this fall.

Sign up for Imagination Library.

We also asked readers for their thoughts:

  • Emily S.: "My kids (5 and 2) are signed up for the Imagination Library and we love it! We signed up early on when COVID forced the library to close. As big readers, we’d visit at least once a week for a new stack of storybooks so the Imagination Library was a fantastic option to add variety to our home library. I highly recommend it to all people with young readers!"
  • Elaine B.: "I just got my first book from the Imagination Library. Free books for my grandson! Win-win!'
  • Tom R.: "My 3-year-old has been signed up for Imagination Library since it started … He gets so excited every time a book comes. He even knows that the books are from 'Dolly.' They’re a great addition to the books we have."
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