Books For Babies
Mary Peterson and Shannon Palmer
Beginnings of Books for Babies
When 1990 was declared International Literacy Year by the United
Nations (UNESCO), it served as a summons to action, recognizing that
widespread illiteracy severely hampers the economic and social
development of individuals and nations. In Canada some alarming
statistics were quoted: a 25% functional illiteracy rate, a 30% high
school dropout rate, and one in five children living below the poverty
level. In response to this concern, the Canadian Home and School
Parent Teacher Federation received funding for a national project
called Literacy in the Information Age. The Books for Babies family
literacy project originated as a result of a challenge, from the
coordinators of the national association, to encourage provincial and
local home and school organizations to formulate community-based
literacy initiatives. The Cardston and District Home and School
Association accepted the challenge to determine what type of literacy
project might best benefit our community.
Many different organizations and groups within the community were
contacted relative to their literacy concerns: schools, health and
government officials, nonprofit organizations, and business leaders.
It was the general consensus that many children entering the school
system could be better prepared for their school experience if exposed
to more language-based activities in the home from birth. Often
children entering grade one lacked the level of listening and speaking
skills that contributed to success in the early grades. It was felt
that teachers who try to help children catch up often do not succeed.
On the other hand, research was cited which suggested that young
children who have been read to from an early age and who have parents
who model literate behaviour have a better chance of academic success
upon reaching school age.
It was determined that the best approach would be preventative,
beginning at birth, in order to raise awareness of the importance of
literacy with parents of newborns. While the concept of Books for
Babies was not original to us, we hoped to offer parents an incentive
to start reading with their children from day one. Adapting some of
the basic ideas to our own community needs, the Cardston Books for
Babies family literacy project began operation at the Cardston
Municipal Hospital on January 1st, 1992.
The Town of Cardston is a farming community in Southern Alberta with
a townsite population of approximately 3500 people. Several small
bedroom communities of three to five hundred people are served by the
project, as they use the Cardston municipal hospital for their
maternity needs. Significant for the project is the fact that the
community of Cardston borders on the southern edge of the Blood Indian
Reserve As a result, many native parents and children are involved in
the project. There are also several Hutterite colonies in the Cardston
area which make use of the maternity ward at the Cardston Hospital.
Approximately two hundred babies are born each year at the Cardston