While they may not understand quite what is happening, increasing research has shown that it is never early enough to start reading to your children. Now a new program at Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital is encouraging parents to begin reading in the first few hours of the child’s life.
Literacy for Little Ones, a program whose mission is to encourage parents to read to their newborns, has expanded to Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander. The program currently donates book packages to babies born at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point, and Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston. On Wednesday, the originator of the program, Rachel Ley, 15, of Stevens Point, delivered her first book to a newborn in Rhinelander.
“I just think it’s important to help build that special bond between a child and parent,” said Ley. “Reading is one of the biggest struggles a lot of kids will face, so I think the earlier they can be introduced to it, the better.”
In April 2009, after receiving a Disney Minnie/Youth Service America Grant, Ley, who’s entering her sophomore year at Stevens Point Area Senior High, delivered the first batch of children’s books to newborns at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital on behalf of a program she created named Literacy for Little Ones. In October 2011, Literacy for Little Ones expanded to Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston. In all, Ley has delivered more than 2,300 book packages since 2009.
“We get the books from all over,” explained Ley. “A lot of stores will donate new children’s books, which is great. I have a lot of friends and family that like to help packaging them. School classes and student councils have kind of adopted the program and help quite a bit, too.”
The program is entering its third year. Because of her outstanding leadership and commitment to philanthropy, Ley was recently selected to be a returning member for the 2012-14 Generation On National Youth Advisory Council. As part of the Council, young service leaders will help to develop and execute Generation On’s key initiatives, and serve as ambassadors for the power of all kids to make their mark on the world.
“I’m so proud of where Rachel has taken this,” said her mother, Mary Tierney-Ley. “When she told me she wanted to make sure every new baby had a book, I thought to myself, ‘Great idea sweetie, but how in the world are you going to do that?’ Well, she did it.”
On Wednesday, Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital Patient Care Services Manager Marsha Wickham joined Rachel in a special book delivery to new parents in the birthing center at Ministry Saint Mary’s in Rhinelander in recognition of Rachel’s accomplishments, and to help kick off the launch of the program’s third year. The books she delivered were purchased with a $500 grant from Miley Cyrus and Youth Service America. The first delivery was made to tiny Hannah Imse, born earlier in the day. Hannah’s older sister, Alyssa, 7, read to her while mother Julie looked on.
“I’ve always thought reading to children was very important, so programs like this are terrific,” said Julie, who’s from Land ‘O Lakes. “Alyssa and I read together every night. One of her favorite things is grabbing a flashlight and a book for reading time.”
Wickham said she was excited that Ley decided to expand the program to Rhinelander.
“We’re delighted Rachel presented us with the opportunity to share the Literacy for Little Ones program with new parents in our community,” stated Wickham. “Together we can hopefully inspire other community leaders to give so selflessly in order to make a positive impact on the life of another.”
Wickham said she speaks from personal experience, first with her own children, and now her grandchildren, when she points out the value of reading to children at a young age.
“It makes a huge different in brain development,” she said. “I remember when I was pregnant, I read anything I could get my hands on-children’s books, textbooks, anything. It’s so important that an infant gets used to their mother and father’s voices.”
Local schools and organizations are encouraged to donate to the literacy cause. Interested donors can email Ley at firstname.lastname@example.org.