A book for every baby — Meaghan Forestell-Page was on maternity leave with her first child when she first heard about a program which aims to increase childhood literacy by partnering libraries with hospital maternity wards.
At the time a new mother, Meaghan was excanging baby stories with friends from Dallas, Texas.
“We were having babies around the same time and they told me about how they got this bag from the library — a literacy kit, essentially — and how nice it was while they were in the hospital to get this,” said Meaghan.
The program model features a partnership between libraries and hospitals to provide every newborn baby with a book.
As a librarian herself, Meaghan said she believes literacy begins at birth and immediately took to the idea.
“To start off right from the hospital with a book for free — that you can start reading — I think that’s very important,” she said.
Meaghan began working on the project as soon as she got back from maternity leave.
She was not working during last week’s launch of the program, dubbed Born to Read. Two months ago she and her husband Kevin Page — who is also a librarian — welcomed their second child into the world and she was once again on maternity leave.
Steven Kraft, CEO of the Guelph Public Library, says newborns are the readers of the future.
“We have always been concerned with childhood programming, childhood literacy, reading and capturing readers at as young an age as possible to build the enthusiasm,” said Kraft.
The Born to Read kit not only includes a book, but also a library card which is guaranteed free from late fines for two years and a health recipe book.
“It’s stressful enough being a new parent, so let’s make it as easy as possible (for them). We’re not a revenue-generating institution. We rely on fines to lower our operating costs, but this isn’t going to make or break us. It’s a thing we can do for the community,” said Kraft.
The card is good to use at any of the six branches of the library, as well as the Bookmobile.
The program was made possible by Friends of the Guelph Public Library, a charity which supports the goals of the library.
A $10,000 donation by the charity supported purchasing copies of Goodnight Moon — a board book included in every kit — as well as a book bag.
The program will run one full year, with possibility of it continuing further.
“Hopefully this is something we can do on an ongoing basis,” said Kraft.
Meaghan said she contacted the hospital in December with a proposal for launching the program.
“Right away they were very receptive, warm and welcoming to this program,” she said.
Although disappointed that she wasn’t working when the program was launched, Meaghan said she is glad it has launched.
One question Kraft said he has been asked is whether the program is available to newborns who were birthed at home.
“Just let us know and we will get you the package of material,” he said.