Getting books into the hands of children

United Way partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Clermont County Public Library to deliver monthly stories to homes.
June 10, 2024
Raelynn Heller
Raelynn Heller at the Clermont County Public Library
(Victoria Ferguson, United Way of Greater Cincinnati)

CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (June 10, 2024) — Four-year-old Raelynn Heller is all smiles and curly pigtails as she bounces into the children's section of Clermont County Public Library, favorite book in tow.

The book "Squeak!," about a chipmunk whose small waking noise sets off a chain reaction of sounds across the animal world, is one she likes to read with her parents at home.

"We have fun making the animal noises together," explains her father, Austin Heller, Raelynn sticking stickers to his shirt. Another favorite, "In My Family / En Mi Familia," is dually written in English and Spanish, giving Austin the chance to introduce his daughter to another language.

Both books came from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a program that puts books into the hands and hearts of children around the world. The Imagination Library is celebrating its fourth anniversary in Clermont County this year.

United Way of Greater Cincinnati has partnered with the Imagination Library in Clermont County to make kindergarten readiness a priority. Studies show children who grow up surrounded by books are more successful in school and that reading aloud to children at a young age has a positive impact on brain development.

It's the goal of the Clermont County Public Library, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati to give every child the advantage of having books and reading opportunities at home.

The Heller family has been receiving free books in the mail for each of their kids from birth up until age 5. For Austin, the program has been essential in educating and enriching his children at home.

"Post-COVID-19, there's been a reading literacy deficit amongst all kids. I've noticed it especially in my older son," he says.

"As a busy family, we don't always have time to run to the library Monday - Friday because we have sports during the week. So when these books come in, it's actually really beneficial."

Austin says even his older kids still enjoy reading the books that arrive in the mailbox.

"All the kids will pick up a book and read. It's great. We've had nothing but positive things to say."

Doing so much reading at home has Raelynn excited to sign up for the Clermont County Library's summer reading program, where kids can mark off reading sessions of 20 minutes on a paper map and win a prize at the end.

Kids get a free book just for signing up, and summer readers can visit their local branch library each week to talk to staff, log their reading, and earn an entry for raffle prizes.

"I read really fast," says Raelynn, eager to color in the squares on the map.

Equally exciting for Raelynn is her birthday party this summer, where she'll celebrate turning 5 before she starts kindergarten in the fall. That month, she'll receive her final book from the Imagination Library: "Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!"

Clermont County families can enroll on the Imagination Library website

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United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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A gift of $25 can provide a child with 12 books a year and encourage a life-long passion for reading! $250 can give that same joy to 10 children. Support the CCOGIL today!

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