Books for Babies begins new chapter in Socorro


Do you remember the first word you could read?

Do you remember the first word you could read?

It may have come from a familiar book your parents read to you before you could barely remember anything at all.

Books for Babies, a program to supplement reading materials and information for parents, has just started with delivery of its first home bag last week, said Elizabeth Beers, the manager of community-based programs for Socorro General Hospital.

Beers said she makes optional postpartum visits to new mothers who give birth at SGH to help them foster their child’s reading aptitude. Even if the parents decline the home visit, they can still get a bag.

“It’s so overwhelming after you’ve been discharged (from the hospital), so I don’t want reading to get lost,” Beers said. “Our next step is to work for those who have delivered outside of Socorro. Our ultimate goal is early literacy.”

The bags, free to new parents, cost the hospital $8.72 per unit, Beers said, which includes information, library applications (free), books applicable for 0- to 3-year-olds and a few other miscellaneous items. The bag can also be used as a diaper or carrying bag.

Books for Babies recycles books within the community to make sure it always has a supply, Beers said.

For busy or single parents, the method of reciting a book or talking about what the parent is doing during their day, such as shopping for groceries, making dinner or whatever, can be helpful to nurturing mental skills.

It’s not just about starting the reading processes at an early age. Dr. Karen Kennicott, SGH pediatrician, said exposing children to television and electronics at an early can be detrimental. After the child gets a little older, it’s OK as long as the parent is there to facilitate the learning environment, but before then, she said, the infant needs to be immersed in nothing but fundamental education.

“What’s crucial is you don’t just park your child in front of the television,” Britta Herweg, youth librarian at Socorro Public Library, said. “If the child is with you and you both engage in a learning software or a nature program, then it’s alright (for maximum two hours a day), but you can’t just park the child in front of the television.”

Seventy-five percent of what a child learns in a lifetime is obtained by age 2, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Beers said a common connotation among parents is that children will learn most of what they need to know in school, but she claims domestic education, especially at the earliest ages, is critical before school even begins.

“They start school at 5, and that’s a little late to start,” Beers said. “The moment a baby is born, they are primed to start learning. We don’t want baby talk; we want to talk to them about our world, what we’re seeing, what we’re doing.”

Reading to an unborn baby while still in the womb can also facilitate early learning. Fetuses can hear the sounds of reading and familiar voices that can translate after its been born.

“It’s the verbal language development, that is so critical for babies,” Beers said.

Looking at older children, Kennicott is trying to establish a Reach Out & Read, a nationally-recognized program, in Socorro. Children, as they develop, will be given a new book for each checkup at their doctor’s office.

As of right now, the program only has half its needed funding, but Kennicott is hopeful the program will receive all of it soon.

Kennicott said third grade is one of the most essential periods in childhood reading to determine whether that child is learning at an appropriate rate or not.

“There are two essential things I always do when a child comes into my office: the first is I use the stethoscope, and the second is I ask ‘Are you reading chapter books yet?’” she said, adding chapter books are a hallmark trait to third-grade reading.

For the first year, Books for Babies will be funded by Bringle Foundation, St. Vincent Hospital Foundation, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and Santa Fe Public Library, but the Socorro branches will have to find alternative methods in subsequent years.

For more information on the Books for Babies program, contact Beers at 835-8791. For more information on and to make financial donations to Reach Out & Read, call Kennicott at 838-4690.