Books for Babies is one of the first family literacy programs the Centre delivered. We asked Wendy Peverett, Program Coordinator for the past nine years, to reflect on the program’s evolution.
When did Books for Babies start as a program at the CFL?
Back in 1997, Prospects Literacy and the Junior League of Edmonton made a joint commitment to a program that gave a book bag with some books to parents of newborns in Edmonton on Family Literacy Day. They would go to the maternity wards and deliver these bags to moms there.
The program was expanded to include our community partners and the new moms involved with their programs. After a couple of years, more information about community resources for families with babies under a year was included in the bags.
How has the program changed?
Before, the focus was on getting the books out into homes rather than information on how to support their child’s early literacy development.
Today, we share information on what to look for in books for this age group; take a critical look at the content, safety, durability, and construction of books; learn songs and rhymes that help with language development; and look at ways to help parents connect with others in their community.
Often parents want to wait until their children are “old enough to know how to handle books” before they give books to them. We help them understand that “book handling” is a learned skill. We encourage parents to let their children explore the books and to watch as they master different stages of opening and closing the book, going from front to back, upside down to right-side up, and finally “pretend” reading.
You certainly have some memorable moments that have made you realize what an affect B4B has had on families. Can you share one of those with us?
Oh, there are so many that it is hard to select one. One dad in particular stands out. He was a reluctant participant but came because his wife wanted him to.
Within the first week I had a feeling that he was struggling with his own literacy issues. During our session on language play, he said he didn’t understand why talking to his baby was so important - they got enough of that through the TV. You could see that he was really trying to learn some of the rhymes and songs but wasn’t following in the book. I gave him a CD that “he could listen to while on the road”.
At the end of the program he had started sharing the pictures in the books, making up his own stories and songs for his baby, and was so grateful that we had acknowledged that not everybody “likes or enjoys” reading. He felt there were things even he could do to help his child learn to like reading.