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United Way celebrates 1 million books given to local children through the Imagination Library program

Mar 16, 2022

Through United Way of Summit & Medina's Imagination Library, enrolled children up to age 5 receive free books, and in March the local program celebrated its success, announcing it has mailed more than 1 million books.

All children 5 and under in Summit and Medina counties are eligible. Each month a brand-new, age-appropriate book is mailed to every enrolled child. With the arrival of the first book, the classic “The Little Engine That Could,” children begin experiencing the joy of finding their own book in their mailboxes.

These moments continue each month until the child turns 5 or moves out of Summit or Medina County. In their last eligible month in the program the book they receive is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!”

The program is funded by a partnership between United Way of Summit & Medina, the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library, and local donors. A gift of only $30 allows children like Niko and Lanie to receive one book per month for a year, a value of more than $120.

“We try to limit screen time, and we look forward to that day when we get to go to the mailbox where I can guarantee at least an hour of attention on the books that we get,” said Malonie, Niko and Lanie’s mom. “The kids like to sit and read over and over again probably three or four times.”

Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995 to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by giving each child one free, age-appropriate book per month.

“United Way of Summit & Medina hosts one of the largest Imagination Library programs in Ohio,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO at United Way of Summit & Medina. “All three of my children participated in this program, and it’s incredible to see firsthand how the gift of thoughtful literature enriched their lives and is improving the lives of children and families in our community.”