Libraries launch literary project for newborns

By Vanessa Lee
Local libraries are looking to give newborns a headstart on reading.

Ottawa-Carleton’s libraries have launched a $95,000 project called 1,2,3, Read With Me/1,2,3, Lis avec moi. It is intended to reach 10,000 babies expected to be born in the region this year.

“Some of the latest studies show that the number of words a baby hears in a day is a predicator of later intelligence,” says Barbara Herd, Chair of the 1,2,3, Read With Me committee.

Herd adds that research shows that children who are exposed to books at an early age are more successful in school. “We want to stress the importance of reading books to babies and we want people to know that the library is a free institution there to help,” says Herd.

Starting Jan. 1, each mother of a newborn in Ottawa-Carleton has been given a cotton book bag including information about the importance of early literacy, a directory of resources for parents, a list and map of the libraries, as well as a recommended list of books for young children. There is also a certificate that parents can redeem for a free Canadian board book in English or French.

“We want to get people in the library who have never been before, and we hope this project will get them to come in and use our resources,” says Herd.

“We think it’s important to get parents comfortable using the library at an early age,” says Linda Sherlow-Lowdon, Chair of the Chief Librarians of Ottawa-Carleton. “You still have to be able to read no matter how far technology gets you.”

The Canadian Child Care Federation agrees. “The 1,2,3, Read With Me program sounds great,” says Barbara Coyle, Director of Communications. “The librarians at the Ottawa Public Library have been recommending books for our members through our quarterly publication for many years now. We’ll be following this project with great interest because of our own project work on early learning and brain development.”

Financial support for the project has been provided by the Ottawa Sun, the municipal libraries, the region, the federal government, the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers’ Federation and the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library. Herd says they are still looking for funding for the last stages of the $95,000 project.