To the Editor:

United Way of Greater Toledo asks the community to join in Thursday for a virtual day of action.

Call or leave a comment on the website of your state representative and senator, urging them to support the Imagination Library.

Instructions on how to reach out can be found on UWGT’s Facebook page. This outreach is prompted by Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive 2022-23 budget proposal, which has a $16 million total allocation for continued support of Imagination Library.

The Imagination Library is a powerful program that delivers a free book every month to children from birth to age 5.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was launched in Lucas County in 2014 by Women’s Initiative of United Way, a philanthropic affinity group of the organization. In 2019, DeWine and his wife, Fran, who were long-time supporters of the Imagination Library, proposed that the program be written into the state budget for the 2020-21 fiscal years. After the budget’s passage, the program was then known as Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library.

Financial support from the state budget means that Imagination Library programs across Ohio can expand services to more children. Every dollar brought in locally is matched by a dollar from the state. In Lucas County, this has led to offering Imagination Library to every child in all zip codes. It has also allowed us to open Imagination Library enrollment for all children in Ottawa and Wood counties.

Currently, 13,788 children under age 5 in the three counties are enrolled. Since 2014, UWGT has mailed over 300,000 books to Lucas County children. Ottawa County has mailed 1,615 books. Wood County has mailed 16,516 books since its 2020 launch.

In Ohio, 720,856 kids are enrolled. Given support from the state, paired with local philanthropic dollars, it costs $12.60 to fund one child’s books for a year.

We want state legislators to understand the power of this program. It is an inexpensive way to get books to kids, which leads to improved literacy rates, increasing kindergarten readiness. Without state support, we could not do this work.

DeWine’s budget proposal has been delivered to the House for debate and will then go to the Senate. UWGT urges legislators to retain and pass a budget that includes the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library at $16 million.

Libby Schoen, director of education & collaboratives at United Way of Greater Toledo