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Early reading program helps kids get head start

In an era where we all should be finding ways to grow our children’s access to reading and learning as possible, Ohio is experiencing a victory.

Country music superstar Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, in partnership with the Ohio Governor’s office, is thriving — and that means more kids are, too.

Early childhood development and education are essential. According to the Ohio Imagination Library website, 80 percent of a child’s brain has developed by age 3. And, “By the time a child enters kindergarten, they must already know thousands of words in order to succeed in the classroom. Reading aloud to a child and giving them access to books is the best way to ensure they are prepared to enter kindergarten,” the website states.

Having more books in the home means a greater chance of success. But we realize not every Ohio family has the extra financial wiggle room to fill shelves with books. Fortunately, that’s where Parton and her partners step in. Imagination Library also has been a pet project of Ohio first lady Fran DeWine.

Tens of thousands of Imagination Library books have been mailed to kids all over Ohio. Many are currently enrolled and many others already have graduated from the program, statewide.

In Columbiana County, 2,486 or 41.6 percent of 5,975 eligible children are enrolled. Lisa Wallace of the Bright Side Project — http://brightsideprojectohio.org/ — serves as coordinator.

In Mahoning County, 6,502 of 56.91 percent of 12,810 eligible children are enrolled. That county’s Imagination Library partner is the United Way of Youngstown and The Mahoning Valley — http://www.ymvunitedway.org/imagination-library/

We know the program works. In Cincinnati, for instance, where the Children’s Hospital began its partnership with the Imagination Library in 2015, children experienced a 15.4 percent rise in Kindergarten Readiness Assessment among those who participated in the program for three years. Consider the value to our own community knowing so many children have the opportunity to experience such improvement, also.

Certainly, Imagination Library deserves our support — and there is a button for donating at ohioimaginationlibrary.org — but we also must spread the word and encourage parents of all young children to enroll in this wonderful program.

Our community will be better for it. We thanks the Brightside Project and United Way for their support of the program. And, of course, all the parents and guardians with involved children. It can do nothing but help enrich these youngsters moving forward.

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