County, Oneida Nation, libraries team up to get books in bassinets

Published Oct 16, 2018 at 4:00pm

It’s never too early to start the reading habit, even for someone who can’t hold a book.

That’s the idea behind the Books for Babies program launched Monday by Oneida County, the Oneida Nation, Mid-York Library System, the Jervis Public Library and Utica Public Library.

Books for Babies strives to give a book to the family of every newborn in Oneida County. The county allotted $25,000 from its share of Oneida Nation gaming revenue, and the libraries are gathering and distributing the materials.

“Literacy comes in all forms, and the sooner the better that we can start on that path so that these children can be well informed, knowledgeable and just enjoy reading and be able to explore the world without ever leaving their home,” said library system executive director Wanda R. Bruchis.

Newborns obviously can’t read, but having a book that a parent or caregiver can read aloud with an infant begins the bonding process and may start the reading-together habit, experts say, adding that it is an approach that is used widely in many communities trying to boost literacy and use of public libraries.

“The impact of reading, a parent or a caregiver, to that newborn, starts at an early age,” Bruchis said.

“It’s part of the bonding process, listening to the words and being able to snuggle with your infant while you’re reading. It’s the very beginnings of communication and involvement, and it helps strengthen the bonds between the parent and the child,” the library system
executive director added.

The book is accompanied by a fliers about what public libraries have to offer families, such as storytelling sessions, Bruchis said, but the larger aim is to promote appreciation of reading from the beginning.

Children who live in homes that contain at least 20 books receive the equivalent of three more years of education than children whose homes do not include books, said Lisa Matte, director of the Jervis Public Library in Rome.

Lack of books can create a significant gap in vocabulary as well, she added.

The book being distributed is “On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman.

Mid-York gets a substantial discount from the publisher on the price of books it buys on behalf of its member libraries.

Between MVHS and Rome Memorial, which is also participating, about 2,560 babies are born each year, according to the organizations.

Oneida County budgeted $47,500 in 2018 to support library initiatives. In addition to the Books for Babies Program, the county also funded a summer reading program and helped to increase the library system’s eBooks and digital audio books collection.

The allocation for the books program is intended to be recurring, according to county officials.