Let’s talk about early literacy, specifically Books for Babies!

According to United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, “Early literacy (reading and writing) does not mean early reading instruction or teaching babies to read; 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. Literacy development begins at birth and is closely linked to a baby’s earliest experiences with books and stories. Babies learn language through social literacy experiences – parents interacting with them using books. These experiences also serve to associate books with parental affection, attention, and approval”.

Over the last 20 years, research has shown that early literacy is a proven indicator of child readiness to enter school. According to Literacy Volunteers, “Between 11-14% of the 2,000 residents of the Chippewa Valley function at the lowest level of literacy, Level 1. This inability to function in modern society is a significant cause of poverty for many Chippewa Valley families struggling to support themselves”.

As an avid reader myself, I still remember the joy of my mom reading one of my favorite books to me as a very young child. I was truly blessed to have parents that believed in the importance of introducing me to the joy of reading as early as possible. Disney and pop-up books were my favorites as a child, but my reading history spans many, many authors and all genres. I am happy to report that my love of the written word still continues today and I’m sure it was because I was introduced to books as a baby! I also believe that is why I am so passionate about the importance of early literacy.

Books for Babies kit

So it’s no surprise that one of my favorite programs the Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library offer to the community is the Books for Babies program. The purpose of the program is to acquaint parents of newborns with the crucial role that books and reading play in their child’s cognitive and behavioral development. Since 2014, the Friends have been providing Baby Literacy Kits to area hospitals. Last year, a total of 1,775 Books for Babies kits were delivered to HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, Mayo Clinic Health System and Marshfield Clinic. That number included 48 bilingual Spanish/English books. Each kit includes a high quality board book, information on why it is essential to read to a baby, a free one-year membership to the Friends of the Library, baby’s first library card application and a finger-play booklet.

We have had wonderful feedback from both the recipients and the hospital staff:

“I was so excited about receiving this book after I had my baby. There’s something about reading your new baby her first book. It not only creates a bond between parent and child, but starts a lifelong love of reading which is so important.”

Rachael and baby Evalyn (photo seen at top of post)
Books for Babies recipients

“I think this is a really great program and gets parents thinking about the library and reading right from the start. Thank you so much for including us in this program!”

Robin Miller, RNC-OB, BSN
Nurse Manager | Birthing Center
Marshfield Medical Center – Eau Claire

“We receive a lot of positive feedback regarding your program. We greatly appreciate all you do for our new families and hope that it can continue!”

Heather Hamilton, M.S.N., R.N.
Mayo Clinic Health System

There’s a lot of work involved to make the program successful. The Friends have a wonderful group of volunteers who donate their time to make Books for Babies thrive. With the help of the Books for Babies Chairperson, Linda Stelter, the volunteers meet once a month for approximately two hours to assemble kits. Prior to the volunteer session, supplies are inventoried, copies are made of any materials currently running low and orders are placed for materials and books that we do not reproduce in-house. Once the kits are ready to go, the library’s gracious employee, Duane Huffmier, loads the kits into the library van and delivers them to the hospitals. Of course, our work does not stop there. We are constantly looking for new, suitable baby books that are within our budget and volunteers as committed as we are to early literacy programs. Staff, board members, and our committed team of volunteers are continually brainstorming different fundraising opportunities to ensure that this amazing program continues for many years to come! Happy reading!

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