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Ohio first lady reads to Salem kids

Ohio first lady Fran DeWine smiles after reading a book to Little Friends Preschool students, who presented her with a thank-you card for visiting. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

SALEM — Ohio first lady Fran DeWine shared her love of books with some very giddy Little Friends Preschool students Thursday, reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and promoting the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library.

“I’m very excited. One of my passions is making them excited to read,” she said.

Salem was one of three stops for DeWine, who also visited Warren and Carrollton in support of the Imagination Library started by country legend Dolly Parton. The Brightside Project, headquartered in Salem, is the Columbiana County partner for the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

DeWine said she loves The Brightside Project and the work the non-profit is doing with children. Executive Director Scott Lewis and Co-Director Lisa Wallace were both thrilled to have her come to Salem. The Brightside Project just became an affiliate for the library a year ago, and has 36 percent of eligible kids enrolled for 2,164 kids.

DeWine explained that children from birth to 5 years old can sign up to receive a free book in the mail each month at no cost. Parents just need to visit OhioImaginationLibrary.org to enroll or go to their local library.

From left, Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Bill Devon, Brightside Project Co-Director Lisa Wallace, Ohio first lady Fran DeWine, Lori Colian, Director of Treatment and Supportive Services for the Columbiana County Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, and Brightside Project Executive Director Scott Lewis pose with a cutout of Dolly Parton during a visit to Little Friends Preschool in Salem. CCBDD and MHRS both help with funding toward the local Imagination Library at Brightside Project. Mrs. DeWine is a big proponent of the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, in conjunction with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

Currently, 42.2 percent of eligible kids statewide are receiving books, but DeWine said she wants to get that number up to 50 percent by the end of the year.

“It’s really making a difference,” she said, noting that a child’s brain is 80 percent developed by the age of 3.

By being exposed to books and reading, they’ll have a lot more chances for success in life. She first learned about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library when watching her grandchildren and some books arrived in the mail which they wanted to read immediately.

She selected “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to read to the preschoolers, a book that’s a favorite for her and her grandchildren.

“They read it to me,” she said.

Having a book in hand is more meaningful for a child and gets them excited for reading, which she said is important for their development.

The preschoolers presented DeWine with a thank-you card and posed for photos with her.

School personnel told the children they were going to have a very special visitor.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and our community. I’m thrilled and honored to have her here,” Little Friends Preschool administrator Paula McClintock said.

The school serves students ages 3 to 5 years old and has been around more than 40 years.

“We have a lot of students who get books from the Imagination Library,” she said.

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