The love of books starts children on the right road to an educated life, and there’s a program across Shelby County that offers children free books monthly through age 5.
Shelby County Books From Birth, the largest affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in the U.S., already provides free, age-appropriate books for nearly 70 percent of the county’s children in that age group. The program recently merged with Porter-Leath to become its newest program. Children receiving books will not see a change in service, and all parents can continue enrolling their young children.
Robert Fockler, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, explained the benefit of joining the two organizations. “This merger takes advantage of the strengths of both organizations; Books from Birth’s staff can focus on putting books in the hands of every pre-school age child in Shelby County, and Porter-Leath – already one of the best-managed agencies in our region – can provide the strong guidance and back office that comes from being the leader in services to our children. It will make both efforts stronger.”
Arlington pediatrician Dr. Jason Yaun, a Books from Birth Council member, supports early literacy programs on both a professional and personal level. In his practice, he has promoted early literacy with Reach Out and Read, a program that gives books to children from ages six months to 5 years at their pediatric checkups. His practice gives about 2,500 books annually through that program.
On a personal level, he and his wife are both avid readers, and both their children, now ages 6 and 10, were enrolled in Books from Birth. Many of the books became their children’s favorites, he said.
“They’re wonderful books,” Yaun added. “They’re really high-quality fun books that the kids really always enjoyed.”
He continued, “When it comes in the mail, we know we’re gonna be sitting on the couch that night with a young one in the lap, reading the book.”
It not only promotes language and communication for children, the program also promotes social and emotional skills and parent-child bonding. “I think that’s been one of the secrets to this early literacy promotion.”
Yaun added, “I was reading an article just the other about how important it is, everything that goes on in between the words, that joint attention, the child looking back at you, even the turning of the page.”
CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.