One of the best things in life is getting a much-anticipated package in the mail, and soon, there will be plenty of eager children awaiting the arrival of the mail carrier.

On Feb. 11, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine announced the launch of the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library in Franklin County, allowing children from birth to age 5 to receive an age-appropriate book each month at no cost to their families.

While Southwest Public Libraries is not involved in the administration of the program, we are excited for its effect on early literacy, a core of SPL's mission.

Any child within the age range is eligible to enroll to receive books from the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library. The OGIL is an expansion partnership with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which has mailed more than 132 million books to children around the world. According to literature provided by OGIL, DeWine saw the effect Dolly Parton's Imagination Library had on her own grandchildren and their community in Greene County and "wanted every child across Ohio to have that same opportunity."

Those interested in signing up for the OGIL program can check local availability and enroll at The program, which is funded by the state as well as county and local partners, is launching gradually and hopes to expand to all 88 Ohio counties by 2021. Nationwide Children's Hospital is the primary sponsor in Franklin County.

Children should begin receiving books approximately eight weeks after successful enrollment. Those who participate from birth will finish with a collection of 60 books when they receive their final book at age 5.

Southwest Public Libraries shared information about the program's launch earlier this month via social media to much enthusiasm. It fits SPL's mission of cultivating a love of lifelong learning beginning with early literacy. Early literacy is critical and is more than just reading and writing.

"It is the natural development of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between babies and parents, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences," according to the American Library Association.

"The best thing is that it's not hard," said Lore Lehr, youth services librarian at Grove City Library. "You can help your children learn by doing fun activities like singing, playing, writing, talking and most importantly, reading. Reading with children helps them stimulate imagination, develop language skills, and exercise their brain."

SPL helps foster early literacy through storytimes and other special programming. Storytimes are offered weekly for ages birth through age 6 at both Grove City and Westland Area libraries and highlight engaging books, activities, crafts, songs and finger plays carefully planned for your child's age.

In addition, Westland Area Library hosts a weekly STEM storytime for curious-minded children, grades K-4, featuring a story followed by STEM activities. A full schedule of all storytimes and programming can be found at the library's website,

Also available on the website is information about Issue 20, a 10-year, 1-mill renewal levy on the March 17 ballot. Issue 20 is a straight renewal, with no tax increase.

Mark Shaw is the director of Southwest Public Libraries.