Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

All Onondaga County Kids Under 5 Now Eligible for Free Book Program

Matt Gutierrez

  Wearing their red and white-striped Dr. Seuss hats, one dozen children sat in a circle and listened to a reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Are You My Mother?” today.  They sat on the front steps of a replica City Hall inside WCNY’s Education Center in observance of “Read Across America Day.”

"I must get something for my baby bird to eat, she said. I'll be back," County Executive Joanie Mahoney read to the group of children.  

And the kids from the Salvation Army day program seemed to have enjoyed the story. The group of children cheered "thank you" to the adults while exiting. 

Minutes before, Mahoney delivered the day’s big news for the “Imagination Library.”  The county program sends children a free book each month until their fifth birthday.  In 2010, only two zip codes in the County were eligible.  The program has now expanded to serve the entire county. 

Virginia Carmody, the Executive Director of the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County, says the Coalition is excited to offer the program to students who need the service in all parts of the County.

"As I said, as children enter not ready for school, they struggle, they fail, and there's all the costs that their families and our communities cannot afford. This is getting them a leg up and helping them to be ready for kindergarten," Carmody said. 

Even in today’s digital world, Mahoney still believes in the effect a traditional book can have on kids.

"The effect when you sit down and read a book to kids is unlike any other: in feeling the book, in walking around, in having ownership of that book. It is probably a question for the education experts, but I can tell you from both a mother's standpoint and as somebody that gets to go into schools and read to kids that there is something about a book that can change kids' lives," Mahoney said. 

Since the launch of the “Imagination’s Library” in 2010,more than 8,000 students have enrolled.  To sign your kids up, visit 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.