Early Literacy Efforts Help Young Brains Develop and Young Children Succeed in School
|a young patient delights in a new book.
Two programs at Bassett Healthcare Network are helping children from birth to age five develop their brains, prepare for literacy, and prepare for success--at school and in later life: Books for Babies and Reach Out and Read. Each program is an inspired way to help area children, and each depends on donors.
Books for Babies launched in June at Bassett Medical Center's birthing center. Barbara Potter, a librarian at Kinney Memorial Library in Hartwick, started the program after discussing it with four other area libraries: Cherry Valley, Cooperstown, Huntingon (in Oneonta), and Springfield. Potter also found a partner in Better World Books, an online book distributor that agreed to donate all of the board books needed for the first year of the program--1,000 total.
When she had secured the books, Potter needed donations to purchase fabric for book tote bags as well as people who would donate their time to sew the bags. Volunteers from Mount Vision, Oneonta, and Cherry Valley contributed to the effort. Nearly 1,000 bags have already been made.
Research from a wide variety of sources shows that exposing children to books at an early age helps their brains to develop. In fact, 95 percent of a child's brain is formed in the first six years of life, according to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.
Reading to children teaches them to love books and helps them with a variety of skills, such as listening and paying attention. The instruction offered to parents as part of the program is also important, as is the intimate time that a parent spends with a young child while sharing a story.
With Books for Babies, every child born at Bassett receives an individually sewn tote bag containing a new board book along with a book mark and brochure from that child's local library, encouraging the parent and child to visit.
Robin Stasilli, nurse manager in the birthing center said, "Reading aloud to your baby provides positive stimulation and enhances bonding. And it's an activity you can continue for years to come."
Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Mooney would agree. She manages Bassett Healthcare Network's Reach Out and Read program. It also prepares young children for early literacy and success in school.
Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based program that begins after newborns leave the hospital. Parents and children make nine well-child visits to a pediatrician before a child enters kindergarten, and it is during these visits that Bassett starts Reach Out and Read.
During each pediatric encounter, the physician speaks with the parent about how important it is to read to the child, demonstrates how, and encourages the parent to make reading with their child into a routine. At the close of the medical visit, the pediatrician gives the child a new book to take home and keep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed Reach Out and Read, calling it "an essential component of pediatric primary care" for children.
For many of these children, the books they obtain at these doctor visits are the only books they will have in their homes. Because of Reach Out and Read, they will enter school understanding how to hold a book, how to turn pages, and what words are.
Many studies show that children who gain this experience through Reach Out and Read are better prepared to succeed in school, have improved language skills, show increased capacity to pay attention, and develop a greater love of reading. They even have better high school graduation rates.
The only cost of Reach Out and Read is the cost of the books, which Bassett obtains for about $2 each. Bassett gives away 7,000 books each year through this program.
You can make a difference in a child's life by making a gift to support these programs. Make a gift online
or mail your donation to Friends of Bassett, 1 Atwell Road, Cooperstown, NY 13326.