How the Program Works
Organizations such as Friends of the Library groups, Women’s Clubs, and Junior Leagues purchase Books for Babies packets. These fully assembled packets feature a board book for baby, baby’s first library card, and a variety of brochures with reading tips and early literacy information from nationally-recognized educational organizations. Groups often supplement the packets with information about local resources, including library locations and contact information as well as details about lapsit and preschool storyhours.
The Books for Babies program is designed to encourage parents to engage in developmentally appropriate literacy activities with their babies. Parents are a critical part of the developmental equation. Babies need human stimuli. They innately orient to faces and would rather listen to speech or singing than any other kind of sound.
Reading aloud to babies is an ideal form of stimulation because it engages visual, auditory, interactive, and attention processes in a pleasurable context. Babies who are read to and engaged in lots of verbal interaction show superior language (and math) skills when compared to children who are not as verbally engaged.
Following are some tips to help you start a Books for Babies program in your community.
- Determine your target audience. Decide if you will give a kit to all new babies born in your community, or if you will target a specific population, i.e., first-time parents, teen mothers, or at-risk parents.
- Plan your strategy for distributing the kits. Research organizations in your community to determine the best method of distribution. Some examples include:
- Local Library
- County Health Department Programs
- Well-Baby Clinics
- Teen Pregnancy Clinics
- Childbirth Classes
- Literacy Organizations
- Local Pediatrician and Obstetrician Offices
- Maternity Wards
- Work with the appropriate organization to determine how the kits will be presented to parents. The maximum benefit is derived when the kits are personably presented to new parents. A few minutes of conversation or orientation with the new parents, emphasizing that it is crucial to talk to and read to the baby in order to activate the learning process, will make parents aware of their important role in exposing their baby to books and reading.
- Decide what other materials or information your organization would like to include in the kits. Contact the local Friends of the Library, library director, or children’s librarian to develop a plan to encourage parents and babies to visit their library. Select materials to include in the kits: library hours and phone numbers, flyers promoting storyhours or parenting programs, and a library card registration form.
- If you need funding, consult Getting Grants in Your Community, a free guide to get you started.
- Solicit local co-sponsorship of the program. Business sponsors should be given the opportunity to have their names listed in local materials and should be publicly acknowledged. Companies such as ARCO, Chrysler, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut all work with local literacy programs. Consider insurance companies, banks, children’s stores, toy stores, fast food franchises, newspapers, television stations, diaper services, hospital auxiliary groups, convenience stores, and radio stations.
- Consider a partnership with another charitable organization. Examples of successful partnerships in other communities include hospital auxiliary groups, AAUW, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Mensa, Altrusa, Junior League, PTA, literacy groups, local foundations, General Federation of Women’s Clubs, United Way, Telephone Pioneers, Chamber of Commerce, and Soroptimist. Combining forces will help with fundraising and distribution.
- The Books for Babies Success Stories may give you some ideas for implementing your own program.