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Our Book Bundle Program for Infants and their Families

Shifting our focus to meet the needs of Minnesota families during the pandemic

May 16th, 2020

It is an understatement to say that families have a lot on their plates right now. Many are trying to juggle working from home with limited childcare options, many are experiencing economic instability and stress, and many children are missing out on those ever-so-important social learning opportunities with their friends and peers. Additionally, many families, especially families of color, are currently dealing with higher levels of stress due to recent violence and unrest (read our national office’s Black Lives Matter statement here). We agree with our pediatricians and experts that it is still vitally important that young children visit their pediatric care providers (Johns Hopkins, Children's Minnesota), however, we also understand why many families are hesitant or unable to do so at this moment. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a sharp drop in the number of regularly scheduled well-child visits for most demographics. For our program, that could potentially mean that fewer families receive books and literacy guidance they need to foster their children’s development during a time when they need it most.

Thankfully, despite a wide range of challenges, one demographic continues to show up for their essential early life visits with their care providers: families with infants. Knowing this, we have taken this challenging moment as an opportunity to reflect and redirect our resources to maximize our impact on the families we serve. With cooperation and enthusiasm from our clinic partners, we have created a new program to distribute ‘book bundles’ to families with children between the ages of 0 and 6 months. These packs of three books have been specially selected to stimulate an infant’s curiosity and help them explore, feel, and learn about their new world. Each pack includes a high contrast image book, a book that features a collection of baby faces—which science tells us babies love to look at—and a touch and feel book. The books are available in both English and bilingual English/Spanish formats. Just like in our standard program, doctors and nurses will use this opportunity to talk with families about the importance of reading for their babies’ development, and empower families to make the most of their child’s early learning moments.  65 of our partner clinics across the state are currently receiving nearly 8,000 books to give to families with infants. So far, our clinics are thrilled to be offering this new service during a time when many families are especially in need.

Reach Out and Read Minnesota is grateful to our partners at All About Books for their enthusiastic collaboration in selecting and providing these books to families.

Upon seeing the books, Jenni Rorick, Operations Manager of Ambulatory Care at the Mayo Clinic, said “It feels like Christmas!  This is so wonderful… [this] makes me want to hold a baby and read to them.” 

This new initiative was made possible by the state funding Reach Out and Read Minnesota received in 2019. While our organization has had to shift the ways we initially intended to use these funds, we believe that the original purpose, to bring early learning resources to the families who need them most, is being served in a way that is more vital than ever. We are thankful to the Minnesota Department of Education who recognized this shifting need and allowed this redirection of funds. 

In recent years, research has increasingly shown that reading to infants has a large impact on their learning in later years. While infants may not be able to follow along with a story, books provide them with a chance to explore a new object with stimulating images, and, even more importantly, hear the sound of their caregiver’s voice as they are held and cared for.

Evidence also shows that race and wealth based inequities in childhood learning begin to manifest themselves at the very beginning of a child’s life, often even before birth. We know that the earlier we can support a child’s learning, the greater the lifetime impact will be. 

We’re thrilled to be offering this new program at a time when families need books, and the smiles they bring, more than ever. 

- Liam Mackin, Communications and Development Coordinator

Further inquiries about our Zero to Six Month Book Bundles can be made to info@reachoutandreadmn.org

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