Resurrected Books for County Babies supports early literacy

Books for County Babies partners distributed book packages to new parents at The Rick Hotston Centre on Tuesday. (Chad Ibbotson/Gazette staff)




A resurrected program seeks to give county children a head start in literacy.

Organized as a partnership between the Friends of the Wellington Library, County Kids Read, and the Prince Edward Family Health Team with support from the Hub Child and Family Centre, the Books for County Babies program re-launched last week after resting dormant for the last couple of years. The program distributes a reusable bag containing a board book, literature about the importance of reading, and information about the local public libraries and County Kids Read to each local family with a newborn. A total of 150 bags have been prepared for distribution.

The program had originated with the Friends of the Wellington Library, but waned with the departure of its lead organizer.

The partners gathered again Tuesday at The Rick Hotston Centre, where the Hub offers its Babies & Beyond program to teen parents, to distribute more of the packages.

County Kids Read chair Anne Preston said, since there was still grant money available to fund Books for County Babies, they approached the friends group with a partnership in mind.

“We’re going to try to make sure the babies get the book within the first month or six weeks of life,” said Preston.

The program folds in with County Kids Read’s Prescription to Read program, which for the last five years has distributed books to children when they reach 18 months. It’s all about introducing children to reading earlier.

“It means a great deal to me because of the whole idea of infusing children with books from birth right up to 12 years of age,” Preston said. “The research is so clear that children who have literacy skills do better at school, they do better economically, health wise, and socially in terms of community.”

Going forward, the program will be handled through the Prince Edward Family Health Team and family outreach nurse Peggy Neil.

Neil, who has been with the health team for 12 years, works with prenatal mothers who need additional support on a referral basis. She works with parents throughout the pregnancy, and in some cases months afterward, providing guidance and information.

“Literacy is huge,” she said.

Neil said County Kids Read will provide her with the ready-to-distribute packages and the program will roll out in a similar fashion as Prescription to Read.

“They’re going to get one at birth and then they’re going to get one at 18 months, how cool is that?” she said. “It’s a really good program.”