Books for Babies promotes early literacy as a first step

Books for Babies promotes early literacy as a first step

Newcomerstown resident Kaitlin Prysi is pictured with her newborn son, Shawn, at Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital with Tuscarawas County Public Library System children’s services manager Linda Uhler.


New Philadelphia native and former librarian Betty Lou Honaker understands the need to support literacy in children. She established the First Steps to Literacy: Books for Babies Trust Fund at the county library in 2008.

Each year 90 percent of the interest income from the trust is used to purchase books for newborns who will reside in Tuscarawas County while the remaining interest income and trust is reinvested for use in future years.

Learning to read starts before a child starts school. Research has shown that children need to develop early literacy skills before they can learn to read. Children who enter kindergarten with these skills learn to read more easily and are more successful throughout school.

“Supporting early literacy development has always been a main objective of the Tuscarawas County Public Library System,” director Michelle McMorrow Ramsell said. “Partnerships and library initiatives help us with the goal of putting books in the hands and homes of area children.”

“Recently the county library provided 66 books to Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital to be given to newborns,” children’s services manager Linda Uhler said. “As the trust grows, the library will continue to increase the number of books given to newborns each year.”

Uhler said in addition to the trust, the county library system encourages area residents to participate in the nationwide challenge, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. The challenge promotes reading to newborns, infants and toddlers and seeks to encourage parent-child bonding through reading.

All five locations of the Tuscarawas County Public Library System offer participation in this free program. Reading logs are provided to help keep track of books, and small prizes are awarded for milestones reached. According to Uhler, the goal is to read 1,000 books before a child starts kindergarten. Every book counts, even those favorite books that are reread.

For more information on donating to the First Steps to Literacy: Books for Babies Trust or to participate in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, visit or call 330-364-4474.

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