And speaking of babies… ECH’s newborn reading initiative is cooperative effort with Ephrata and Cocalico school districts

By on January 2, 2013

By: RICHARD REITZ Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Pictured with some of the books that will be distributed through the Books for Babies program are (from left to right) Crystal Loose, coordinator of EASD Learning Development; Kim Schlemmer, EASD assistant superintendent; Kathie Singer, RNC at Ephrata Community Hospital; Ella Musser, Cocalico assistant to the superintendent; and Denise Logue, Cocalico reading coordinator. (Photo by Richard Reitz)

Babies begin learning important oral language skills from the moment they are born. That is why it is critical for parents to make book reading a daily part of their child’s routine.

So to encourage early learning development, Ephrata Community Hospital is providing all newborns with an age-appropriate book that mom and dad can take home and read to their child.

Books for Babies is a new partnership between the Ephrata Area School District, Cocalico School District and Ephrata Community Hospital. It will provide a new book to all babies born in the hospital’s Family Maternity Unit, or about 800 books a year.

"It’s an exciting partnership," said Kim Schlemmer, assistant superintendent at Ephrata Area School District. She said that the first 24 months of a child’s life is when a child develops oral language skills that are necessary for learning, talking, and eventually reading.

"We want to reach children before they even start school," Schlemmer said. "A parent is a child’s first teacher."

"We want parents to know that our schools are not here just to begin teaching them when they start kindergarten," added Ella Musser, assistant to the superintendent at Cocalico School District. "Learning begins at birth, and the first way to develop literacy is to read to your child over and over again."

Kathie Singer, a nurse at Ephrata Community Hospital, said the Books for Babies program grew from a four-session program for parents of children ages 0-24 months called Plant the Seed of Learning. Sessions include music, crafts, numbers and reading out loud.

They realized that most of the parents in those programs were from the Ephrata and Cocalico area, and that if they could form a coalition with the schools, they might be able to promote good literacy habits from the moment a child arrives at home from the hospital.

Educators in both school districts recognized the value of such a program, and agreed to provide funding and resources for the books through their respective education foundation programs.

"I saw the literary scores of incoming kindergarten students and saw a need for something like this," said Crystal Loose, coordinator of learning development at Ephrata Area School District. "All you need to do is read to a child 15 minutes a day to give them a head start."

Reading to a child, and the other skills reviewed in the Plant the Seed of Learning program, teach parents how to work with their children at a young age during this critical time of their lives.

"Most parents know how to do these things. They just aren’t always thinking about it," Loose said.

Fortunately, reading aloud is something enjoyable for parents and children to share and builds a relationship between parent and child.

"This is the fun stuff about being a parent, and it promotes reading at literacy at the same time," Singer said.

Amanda Zeiset of Ephrata certainly agrees with that sentiment. Her daughter, Peighton Carpenter, was the first recipient of a book on Dec. 10, one day after she was born in the Family Maternity Unit. Peighton received a copy of the board book "On the Night You Were Born," by Nancy Tillman and "A Color of His Own" by Leo Linini.

"I’m very supportive of this program. I like it a lot," Zeiset said. She said she regularly reads to her three sons, ages 2, 3, and 4, and will continue that tradition with Peighton. "Reading to my children is something very important to me. I love to read, and I want my children to love it, too."

Financial donations to support the program are being accepted by the Ephrata and Cocalico area education foundations. Donations can be mailed to the Ephrata Education Foundation, 803 Oak Boulevard, Ephrata, PA 17522; or to the Cocalico Education Foundation, 800 South 4th Street, Denver, PA 17517. More BABIES, page A6

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