Fond du Lac partners collaborate to promote infant literacy

Shelly Haberman
Words to Grow By

It’s a two-way street when it comes to communication between parents and their babies. Research shows the benefits of talking, laughing and reading to babies. While it may feel a little silly talking and reading to a baby, a baby responds giving response signals in their attempts to communicate.

In fact, this important communication can, and should, begin during pregnancy. It’s never too early. Babies recognize their mother’s voice in the womb, so why not make reading aloud a habit while you’re still pregnant?

And once your baby arrives, reading to your newborn is a must. Your baby won’t understand your words, but hearing your voice stimulates an interest in sounds and helps him develop listening skills.

It’s information like this that brought together several Fond du Lac community partners - Agnesian HealthCare, Fond du Lac Morning Rotary, Fond du Lac Public Library and Fond du Lac County UW- Extension’s SPROUT (Supporting Positive Relationships so Our children Under 6 can Thrive)  - to introduce “Words to Grow By,” a program which promotes infant literacy.

A Welcome Baby Literacy Kit is given to the parents of newborns at their 20-week prenatal/ultrasound appointment at Agnesian HealthCare locations in Fond du Lac, Ripon and Waupun. The kit features a children’s book, a guide from the Fond du Lac Public Library with suggested books for infants in English and Spanish, a county-wide resource guide, and a tip sheet on the importance of communicating with your baby.

The kits have been made possible thanks to a $3,500 district grant that Fond du Lac Morning Rotary was able to obtain.

“Our membership recognizes the importance that reading plays on the lives of our children,” says Deb Witkowski, a Fond du Lac Morning Rotary member. “Our efforts first began with researching early literacy and its importance to brain development. It shows that talking, reading and singing are critical even before the baby is born.”

Local experts were interviewed ranging from physicians to social services to library and more. “In all the conversations we had, I was impressed with all that I learned within our very own community about all the fantastic resources at our disposal.”

In just two years, a total of 2,000 kits have been donated to share with expecting parents.

“We are very pleased with the positive response we have received,” according to Witkowski. “The ultrasound techs have embraced this opportunity to help encourage expecting parents to begin nurturing their child in this way even before welcoming them face-to-face.”

Kim Mayer, St. Agnes Hospital diagnostic supervisor, agrees. “Our ultrasound techs get a great response from all their patients on this,” according to Mayer. “It’s exciting to watch when a family brings another child with them, that the book gets shared during the exam. The parents are always happy to receive these books! We appreciate that we can help extend this educational opportunity that explains the importance of reading.”

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