By Pamela Brownstein
In the days after a new mother gives birth at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, there will be a whirlwind of people visiting her bed side. Doctors, nurses, family, friends, pediatricians, lactation specialists, and volunteers from the Born to Read program.
This nonprofit organization believes the road to literacy truly begins at birth, which is why the 30 trained volunteers have visited more than 18,000 new mothers in the Birthing Centers of Beaufort Memorial and Hilton Head hospitals since 2002. They bring gift bags to give to the parents that contain two books for the baby, a “Born to Read” bib and other literacy materials.
Executive Director Chris Taggart said, “We want parents involved with reading right from birth so each child can have a better start.”
Taggart, who worked as a kindergarten teacher for many years, said the children who came to school with a background of reading had a head start as far as vocabulary and other learning skills, so she knows the importance of reading regularly at home, even with infants.
“Most of the time, a good reader is going to be a good student,” she said.
The organization also mails out quarterly newsletters to parents who sign up during the hospital visit. These give updates about baby’s growth and also provide developmentally appropriate language activities for the babies, as well as offering reading tips and book suggestions for parents.
“We try to reach out to parents as much as possible,” said Taggart, by helping parents who have dropped out of school obtain a high school diploma or GED, or by helping speakers of other languages learn or improve their English through classes sponsored by Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry. They also give out library card applications.
Since Born to Read is a nonprofit charitable organization, Taggart said she spends much of her time trying to get the word out and to raise the financial support needed to keep the program going. They receive no state or federal funding and rely on grants and the help of other area organizations such as The Beaufort Fund, the First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort, Friends of Callawassie and Friends of the Beaufort County Library.
Born to Read is sponsored by Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Hilton Head Hospital, Beaufort County Public Library, Beaufort County School District FACES Program, and the United Way of the Lowcountry.
Taggart said some of her favorite children’s books include “Curious George” and “Goodnight Moon.” She hopes that Born to Read will help parents see that they are their children’s first and most important teachers, and that instilling a love of books and reading is a gift that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
She said a donation of only $10 can provide five babies with their first book.
For more information about the program, call 843-379-3350, email at email@example.com or visit the website at www.borntoread.org. The office is located at 2201 Boundary Street, Suite 111, Beaufort, SC, 29902.