What is Books for Texas Babies?
Books for Texas Babies is the new name of the literacy program originally developed as Books for Dallas Babies by Trish Holland, program founder and local children's author, Kate Park, Executive Director of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library, and Jasmine Africawalla, Community Engagement Manager at the Dallas Public Library. The new title reflects the aims of the program to expand to other cities and counties in Texas. Kick-off for Books for Tarrant County Babies at John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth took place on January 1st, 2017. All future programs will be based on the design of the original Books for Dallas Babies project.
What is Books for Dallas Babies?
Books for Dallas Babies is a program established through the Dallas Public Library and the Friends of the Dallas Public Library in partnership with Parkland Health and Hospital Services. The program provides one bilingual picture book to every baby born at Parkland Hospital while mother and baby are still on the maternity ward. Tips for reading and talking to babies are included in the book, as is information on how to use the Dallas Public Library system. Before discharge, a nurse or child life specialist meets with each new mother to present the book and discuss the importance of reading to babies and young children. The goal of the program is to increase preliteracy skills in the children of Dallas by promoting reading and talking to infants and toddlers from birth. Adequate preliteracy skills are necessary for a child to become successful at reading later in school. In addition, reading to infants enhances mother child bonding during “lap time” reading and encourages a life long love of books.
Why is Books for Dallas Babies Needed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently adopted standards encouraging its members to stress the importance of reading aloud to infants from birth. Babies need to hear words and how they’re used in language. Children who have heard more words have a clear advantage in school. Reading, talking and singing to babies are the primary methods of increasing the number of words children hear in the first years of life. Of these, reading offers the greatest variety of words. Many parents do not interact verbally with their children enough to build the necessary preliteracy skills. Often, parents are unaware of the importance of reading, talking and singing to babies and young children. They may not know that the public libraries can help.
Where was Books for Dallas Babies Established First?
Books for Dallas Babies serves the most needy first. Parkland Hospital, the public sector hospital in Dallas, has the highest percentage of births to low-income mothers in the county. There were approximately 10,000 deliveries in 2015 at Parkland and most of these were to mothers who live below the poverty level. According to a federal government survey, 60% of American children from families with incomes four times the federal poverty threshold ($95,400 for a family of four) are read to daily from birth to five years of age. This compares to just 33% of children from families living below the poverty line ($23,850 for a family four). By the age of three, the children of wealthier professionals have heard several million more words than have the children of less educated, low-income parents. Low-income children often have little exposure to reading before entering formal childcare. Sadly, there may be no books in thier homes.
What is the Current Status of Books for Texas Babies?
The Books for Dallas Babies program was initiated at Parkland Hospital on January 1st, 2016. By the end of the year, approximately 10,500 books had been distributed. The Dallas project is continuing in 2017. The program has also expanded in 2017, under the name Books for Tarrant County Babies, to John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS) in Ft. Worth, Tarrant County, TX, through a partnership between the JPS Foundation and the Ft. Worth Public Library Foundation. JPS expects approximately 5,500 births in 2017. This new program has gone a step further and provides Baby's First Library Card in addition to the book. Parents take this card to their local library to receive an official library card in their new baby's name. This is a wonderful way to introduce their child to a lifetime of free books and library programs. There are plans to approach other hospitals in Texas soon.