'Books for Babies' project hopes to boost literacy


At 1 month old, Justin Marino may be the youngest library card holder in Carroll County.

Yesterday, Justin and his mother, Jessica, were the first recipients of a "Books for Babies" reading packet at the Carroll County Health Department.

Visibly unimpressed, Justin slept through the entire ceremony.

Sponsored by the Carroll County Public Library, the Woman's Club of Westminster and The Sun in Carroll County, the "Books for Babies" project is intended to encourage parents to help their children become readers as early as possible.

A "Books for Babies" packet will be presented to each new mother who receives her prenatal care through the Carroll County Health Department.

The packets will be given to the mothers when they come to the department for their babies' six-week checkups.

Ms. Marino and Justin were chosen to receive the first packet because Justin, who arrived Jan. 4, was the first baby in the health department maternity program born this year.

The packet contains a book for the baby; a book for the parents, "Read to Me: Raising Kids Who Love to Read;" a booklet with songs and games for young children; and a "Baby's First Library Card," which can be exchanged at any county public library for the real thing.

"We wanted to encourage literacy among families in Carroll County, and we know that children who are read to grow up to become readers," said Susan Roberts, program coordinator with the county's library system.

Ms. Marino and Justin, who live in Sykesville, have already gotten a head start.

"I'm already reading to him; I've been reading to him since I was four months pregnant," said Ms. Marino, who reads children's Bible stories to Justin.

The "Books for Babies" project got off the ground when the Woman's Club of Westminster approached the county library system about collaborating, Ms. Roberts said.

The Woman's Club raised $200 for the project and the Sun contributed $500 to buy 300 "Books for Babies" packets from Friends of Libraries, U.S.A., a national organization that supports the activities of local libraries.

The county library system is donating graphics services for some of the literature in the packets and is providing storage space for the packets.

"This program is to introduce a reading program to very young children," said Jacqueline Hering, co-chairwoman of the Woman's Club education department.

Originally, the idea was to give the "Books for Babies" packet to every new mother in the county, but the group limited the project to the health department's maternity program because of a lack of money.

Cindy Bosley, director of the health department's prenatal clinic, said it isn't too early to start reading to a 6-week-old child because at that age "the baby is smiling and looking at you."

Woman's Club is looking for other civic groups interested in supporting the "Books for Babies" project.

For information about the project, call the Woman's Club of Westminster at 848-9036.

Donations may be sent to Mary Ada Welliver, Woman's Club treasurer, 776 Winchester Dr., Westminster 21157.

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