2018-02-15 / Front Page

Hospital, Book Nonprofit Partner for Literacy

Books from Birth Can Improve Educational Outcomes
By Amy Martin


Courtney Arruda and her newborn daughter Olivia were among the first recipients of a book from Newport Hospital’s new “Reading is Healthy” program. Every baby born at the Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center now goes home with a new board book, to encourage parents to read to babies from birth. (Photo courtesy of Newport Hospital) Courtney Arruda and her newborn daughter Olivia were among the first recipients of a book from Newport Hospital’s new “Reading is Healthy” program. Every baby born at the Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center now goes home with a new board book, to encourage parents to read to babies from birth. (Photo courtesy of Newport Hospital) Dr. Lauren Goddard, family medicine physician with Jamestown Family Practice, wheeled her 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, perched in her stroller, into Newport Hospital’s launch of its “Reading is Healthy” program on Feb. 6. As one of the featured speakers at this media event, Dr. Goddard spoke of the program’s focus: to increase literacy throughout the Newport community. The goal of “Reading is Healthy” is to encourage parents to read to their babies, as well as to consistently get books into the hands of older children.

Dr. Goddard is certainly practicing what she preaches, as little Naomi emerged from her stroller (to the delight of the audience) clutching two of her favorite books, while her mother explained how she encourages her patients and their parents to read to one another regularly from an early age. “It fosters literacy, and is a great bonding experience,” she said.

The Hospital has partnered with Books Are Wings, a nonprofit organization based in Providence that will provide varying interest, age-appropriate books to all of the Hospital’s affiliated primary care offices. In addition, the Hospital is hoping to expand this program to its emergency department by next year, so as to reach thousands more children annually.

Every infant born at the Noreen Stoner Drexel Birthing Center at Newport Hospital will take home a board book (a book for very young children made of cardboard stock) to begin or add to baby’s home library. Parents of the newborns can choose either, “Good Night New Baby” by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper or the bi-lingual book, “I Like It When…/Me Gusta Cuando…” by Mary Murphy. The Birthing Center will present the books to the parents during their stay for their baby’s birth. The Newport Hospital Women’s Auxiliary is funding the board books for the program.

The second component of the Hospital’s program is to provide every child under 12 with a gently used book each time he or she visits any of Newport Hospital’s affiliated primary care facilities.

Jocelynn White, director of Books Are Wings, explained how book ownership is integral to closing the literary achievement gap. “According the National Literacy Trust, 92 percent of children who have books in their homes are reading at grade level. Families don’t always have access or availability of funds to purchase books,” White said.

“Our mission is to put free books in the hands of children and provide continuous access to books all year long for them, no matter what community they’re from.” White continued, “Research suggests that growing up in a home with at least 20 books is associated with three additional years of schooling for children.”

Books Are Wings is a statewide initiative, but Newport Hospital will be its only partnership in the Newport area, and “Reading is Healthy,” the first literacy program of its kind to be implemented in Newport, plans to engage thousands of children over the years.

The organization stresses that the key to a lifelong relationship with books is to enjoy the subject matter. “We focus on children’s choice,” White said. “We empower the children to become their own readers, to learn what they are interested in and genres that they like. If they are engaged in their own choices, they are more apt to read.”

Also in attendance at the launch was Colleen Jermain, superintendent of Newport Public Schools. Jermain spoke of her support for the “Reading is Healthy” Program and highlighted the need for literacy programs in Newport. “Literacy programs are critical. Children are only in school six and a half hours a day.

“The first teachers of any child are their parents, so the more we can change [parental] behaviors and have children be exposed to good rich literacy, vocabulary and allowing their imaginations to thrive, the stronger we will be as a community. We want an educated population and kids that enjoy learning,” Jermain said.

The first newborn recipient of the program was Shane Timothy Sullivan, who was born at the Birthing Center and was only two days old when he received his copy of “Good Night New Baby.” His parents, David and Natalie Sullivan, spoke about their existing home library that they began after the birth of their 19-month-old daughter.

“[Our daughter] loves books. She has gotten to the point where she takes the books out herself and brings them to us. She flips the pages herself and babbles trying to read. She mostly likes to look at the pictures right now. We have read to her from the beginning and will do the same with Shane.”

Some of their daughter’s favorites include, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Good Boy, Carl.”

“‘Good Boy, Carl’” Natalie said, “was my favorite book as a child.”

For more information about “Reading is Healthy,” visit newporthospital.org.

Return to top