The toddlers and babies in Kathleen Redmond’s Babies and Tots Story Time at the Batavia Public Library were enchanted as they watched her go through rhymes and songs.
“Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” Redmond read in a sing-song voice, holding up the celebrated children’s picture book so the children could follow along.
Then it was time to stand up and stretch – for those who could – while singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” accompanied by a CD of Wee Sing for Baby.
Anna Bakker’s daughter, Addison, all of 6 months old, was among the babies at the program.
“We like to read,” said Bakker, a Batavia resident. “We do it all the time. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to read and keep her entertained, so it’s nice when somebody else does it, and I can hold on to her.”
Research shows that reading, talking and singing to babies are important building blocks for developing readers, librarians say. That is why most offer early literacy programs for babies and toddlers.
Taking it a step further, the Batavia Library invested in Born to Read. Officials give a book bag with six board books to parents of babies and expectant parents – and encourage them to read to their babies.
Bakker said she received one of those Born to Read book bags and has been reading to Addison. Bakker said she was not surprised to be encouraged to read to a baby.
“My grandparents and my dad started doing that with me when I was a baby, so I was pretty adamant about doing it,” Bakker said. “They said I started reading a lot quicker than most kids.”
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Born to Read is a program of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. Although it no longer actively promotes the program, information about it still is available on its website, www.ala.org/alsc/issuesadv/borntoread.
Batavia Library Board member Maureen Jakubowski said she first learned about the program through the Naperville library.
“I just thought [it] was such a great idea,” Jakubowski said. “I talked to people in Naperville and worked hard to get grants and gifts ... when we had our budget, we formed a committee and researched which books would be the best, and we have bags in Spanish and English.”
The bags and books are given out free to parents with new babies who live in the library district, the school district or city of Batavia, with board books in English and Spanish.
The bags are available for $35 for those who want to buy it as a gift or those who live outside the area.
“We have given out almost 247 bags since we started. in the spring of 2009,” said Joanne Zillman, head of youth services for the Batavia Public Library. “The idea is to build early literacy ... to get parents into the habit of reading to their children right from infancy.”
Just opening and touching the book are precursors to reading, Zillman said.
“Seeing printed text, knowing how a book opens and closes, hearing the voice and the words – these are all the early markers for early literacy,” Zillman said. “These early experiences prepare them for learning.”
Holly Deitchman, station executive director for BATV said she got a Born to Read bag when her son was three months old in 2009.
“I did not know about the other aspects of reading to your child,” Deitchman said. “There are a lot of other sensory portions that they touch on in the materials, like letting them chew on the book is OK instead of, ‘No don’t put that in your mouth.’ ”
The board books in the Born to Read bag are sturdy enough for babies to grab on to, even chew on, and can be wiped clean.
The cost is covered by a combination of support from the library and sponsorships by local organizations, Deitchman said.
“I think it’s a really great community partnership,” Deitchman said.
BATV produced an award-winning video on Born to Read, available between regularly scheduled programming, on the Video Bulletin Board on Comcast Channels 10 and 17 in Batavia, AT&T U-verse Channel 99 throughout northern Illinois.
The video is available at vimeo.com/20657111.
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The Geneva Public Library offers a similar early literacy program called Every Child Ready to Read, said Kristi Miller-Pease, head of youth services.
“That is where we get our basis from and where the research is done,” Miller-Pease said. “We also have a table in the youth department with activities that promote reading readiness – games, rhyming words and writing, scribbling and drawing. We change the activities every two weeks.”
Messenger Public Library in North Aurora uses its baby story time to introduce board books for those ages 6 months through 23 months old, said youth services librarian Sheila McNair.
“We’re setting an example for parents with the idea of reading to babies,” McNair said. “They don’t know the alphabet yet, but … we get them acclimated to the idea of reading. This is great for babies and parents, grandparents and nannies.”
The baby-friendly programs have caused increased attendance at all their early literacy programs, McNair said.
“I do think there is something to be said for sitting together with one another that gets them ready for school – even before preschool,”
McNair said. “My favorite quote is, ‘Children are made readers in the laps of their parents,’ ” attributed to award-winning children’s author Emilie Buchwald.
On the Web
To learn more about early literacy initiatives, visit the following sites:
• Reading Rockets - www.readingrockets.org.
• Born to Read, Every Child Ready to Read - www.ala.org.
• The Children’s Reading Foundation - www.readingfoundation.org.
• Reading is Fundamental - www.rif.org.
• Zero to Three - www.zerotothree.org.