SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - A new program is underway at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center to encourage reading, even for the very youngest members of the community. Every baby born at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center receives a free tote-bag featuring a high contrast board book and other literacy-building materials.
The Rowan Reads to Newborns program was established to ensure that every baby born in Rowan County receives a book appropriate for newborns. Reading books with newborns strengthens their development and lays the foundation for further learning.
In 2014, Salisbury Councilwoman Karen Alexander initiated a group that came to be called Literacy Connections. The purpose of this group was to develop a county-wide venture to support and enhance the Rowan Salisbury Schools' Literacy Framework. Goals included providing continuity in learning for transient students, bridging the "digital divide" by providing free Wi-Fi to students outside of school hours in community buildings and media centers, and encouraging the use of RSS and Rowan Public Library online subscription services and digital collections.
Rowan Public Library representatives Jane Welch, Children's Outreach Supervisor, and Melissa Oleen, Youth Services Supervisor, were invited to join Literacy Connections. Welch became a key facilitator between Novant, Smart Start, and Rowan Public Library. Welch and former library director Phil Barton had previously tried to start a books-for-newborns program in Rowan County years ago.
Alexander spoke to local organizations and clubs about Literacy Connections and the Rowan Reads to Newborns initiative to gain support for both programs. Rowan Reads to Newborns became the official title, a committee was formed consisting of representatives from the Salisbury City Council, Novant, Kiwanis, United Way of Rowan County, Rowan Public Library, Rowan Public Library Foundation, Smart Start Rowan, Altrusa Club of Salisbury, and a member of the community.
Thanks to an anonymous $5,000 donation was made to Rowan Public Library in July of 2015 and additional donation of $2,500 from Novant, Rowan Reads to Newborns obtained enough funding to support the program for two years.
As a result, every child born at Novant Rowan Medical Center and their parents receive:
-a quality library tote-bag containing a high-contrast board book. This type of book is specifically designed for birth to three months. The simple black and white illustrations and patterns are easiest for newborns to see first. Parents with low literacy or limited English language skills may be uncomfortable reading to infants. This type of book makes it easier to read aloud or for them to create their own storyline.
-an American Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read brochure highlighting the importance of reading to your newborn and effective ways to do it, a Rowan Reads video on CD. This short video narrated by WBTV's David Whisenant discusses effective ways to read with children. The CDs were provided by the Rowan Salisbury School System, a Smart Start Rowan brochure highlighting the services and resources they provide to a child's first and most important teacher – their families.
-a Milestone Moments brochure that allows parents to follow their newborn's development by watching how they play, learn, speak, and act. This small booklet can be taken to pediatrician's visits and used to discuss milestones a baby has reached and what to expect next.
-a Novant Health Growth Chart, and a library card application for newborns. Most parents do not realize that newborns are eligible to have their very own Rowan Public Library card. Parents can bring this application to any RPL location to receive their baby's first library card. The card is free; the benefits are priceless.
Rowan Public Library and the Library Foundation currently oversee and administer the Rowan Reads to Newborns project, funding, and programming.
"Rowan Public Library Foundation is very excited to administer the Rowan Reads to Newborn program," said Phil Barton, Rowan Public Library Foundation. "The vision of this country-wide collaborative partnership between Rowan Public Library, Smart Start Rowan, and Novant Rowan Medical Center is to provide parents with early literacy tools to set their newborn on the path to reading readiness."
Donations to Rowan Reads to Newborns can be made at Rowan Public Library. Please make checks payable to Rowan Public Library Foundation designated for the Rowan Reads to Newborns program.