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Spokane Public Library aims to build love of reading with baby book kits

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 11, 2017, 9:51 a.m.

Two-day-old Etta Donovan blinked sleepily and then snuggled deeper into her mother’s arms at Providence Holy Family Hospital. She hadn’t even left the hospital yet, but she’s already got her own library card and a jump start on early literacy.

Books for Babies, a new program from Spokane Public Library, aims to put a library card and a new book in the hands of every baby born at area hospitals, as long as they reside in Spokane city limits.

In a news release, Andrew Chanse, library executive director, said, “We want library lovers in every household and what better way to reach those citizens than on the day they are born.”

The gift bags also include bookmarks, early literacy tips and information for new parents about how to access digital resources from home. Support from the Friends of the Library made the program possible.

“Reading to babies from the first day is so important,” said Sally Chilson, Spokane Public Library learning and literacy coordinator. “Many parents don’t realize that early literacy can and should start at Day One.”

Etta’s mom, Amy Donovan, understands this better than most. She is an ELD (English Language Development) teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School and works with children from kindergarten to third grade.

She was delighted with the Books for Babies gift bag and said Etta’s big sister, Naomi, 2 1/2 years old, will love the new book.

“This is such an awesome way to get books in the hands of parents who may not be able to access them,” she said.

Donovan also appreciated having the storytime schedule handy and plans to take her daughters to the Shadle Library branch.

It takes some time for families to settle in following the birth of a child, that’s why Chilson said providing the digital access information was also important.

“Parents can register for online user access without leaving home,” she explained. “They can download music, movies and books, and they can do it without coming to the library to pick up a physical card.”

So far, 1,000 kits are ready for distribution to area hospitals, and there’s funding to do another 1,000.

“We hope these kits help instill a love of reading from the start,” Chilson said. “The relationship that comes from time spent sitting down and reading with a little person is wonderful. We want all families to realize the opportunities of early literacy.”

At Providence Holy Family Hospital, Etta opened one sleepy eye and yawned while her mom looked at her new library card.

“This is a great, great program,” Donovan said.