Libraries, our early-literacy champions! (Part 1)

Kudos to the American Library Association for their ambitious initiative, Born to Read: It’s Never Too Early to Start! This project is “aimed at providing early literacy resources to library staff as they help expectant and new parents to become aware that reading to a baby from birth is critical to every baby’s growth and well-being.” As you’ve probably gathered, as far as reading goes, we at The Reading Womb enthusiastically agree that “It’s never too early to start!”

It’s thrilling to see how many public libraries across the country are on board with the Born to Read initiative. Some host baby showers for expectant parents to give books and information to those who want to begin reading right away, and others distribute books to new parents in local hospitals so that they can start reading as soon as their babies are born.

Kate Pierce, C.N.M., gives Read to Your Bunny to expectant parents Kate and Rob White

An impressive assembly of libraries, schools, businesses and community members in Ithaca, New York,  has been collaborating for over 15 years to promote reading through the Family Reading Partnership. This exceptional coalition of reading advocates “have joined forces to create a culture of literacy by promoting family reading practices throughout our community.” Among their many educational endeavors, the Family Reading Partnership encourages expectant parents to read to their babies in the womb, and educates them about how early experiences with books build a strong foundation for lifelong learning. Here are some of the FRP’s hopes and dreams for families:

  • Reach Families Early: The earlier a family integrates books and reading into everyday life at home, the greater the impact books will have on their children.
  • Reach Families at Home: We want all children to grow in literacy-rich environments, where books are accessible and enjoyed. When adults and children discover the joy of books together in the home, a love of reading becomes a shared value.
  • Encourage Daily Routines and Family Traditions Around Books: In a culture of literacy books are so interwoven into the fabric of family life that they become an expected and treasured part of everyday life.

The whirlwind of energy and imagination behind the partnership is Executive Director Brigid Hubberman. We were honored to exchange a few emails with Ms. Hubberman, in which we enthused about the merits of in utero reading and Brigid shared some of the exciting programs the FRP facilitates to encourage families to embrace literacy-centered routines. The Family Reading Partnership has sponsored an incredible mission to get the literacy ball rolling as soon as possible by giving expectant parents inspiring reading materials at their initial prenatal doctor’s visit. Couples receive a copy of the beautiful rhyming and rhythmic book by Rosemary Wells, Read to Your Bunny, along with the adult book Reading Magic by literacy expert Mem Fox, which explains the importance of providing a literacy-rich environment for children. Now, how awesome is that?

The FRP also distributes a playful bookmark, featuring this wonderful illustration from Reading Magic, that humorously depicts that it really, truly is never too early to read to your baby, as well five excellent reasons (see below) to start even before he or she is born.

Brigid shared a lovely story with us about a father who experienced firsthand the advantages of prenatal reading:

We do have a wonderful and concrete “evidence of impact” story from a father who read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to baby over and over in the months before birth. After a long and difficult labor, when baby was finally born by C-section, the new dad found himself exhausted, alone and panicked in the recovery room with a shrieking new baby. Looking down he felt the words well up, and found himself say to the baby, “In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.” Immediately, the baby quieted down and looked into her father’s eyes as he told the story of the caterpillar that turned into a butterfly. There is no doubt that this baby was soothed by the familiarity and comfort of her father’s voice reading (by heart) a story that was already her own!

We get goosebumps every time we receive another confirmation of the magical effects of reading to babies in utero! And we are so grateful for the enormous contribution the Family Reading Partnership is making to the cause of family literacy (find out more about it here). In Part 2 we’ll talk a little more about the ALA’s Born to Read program, as well as the national educational initiative Race to the Top. For now, we’ll leave you with the FRP’s perfect expression of why It’s Never Too Early to Read to Your Baby!

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