Cuddle A Reader, Create A Reader – A Special Message And More For New Parents

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“It’s never too early to start reading to your child.” This is the message that parents of newborns are hearing at Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center Redding (MMCR) before they bring their babies home for the first time.

Cuddle a Reader, Create a Reader is a program developed by the volunteers at MMCR and First 5 Shasta to promote early literacy and language development. Newborns go home with their very first board book and a “baby’s first library card” application, along with literature on how to share books with your newborn to 3-month-old, plus the “Talk. Read. Sing.” message promoted by First 5. All materials are enclosed in a bright yellow bag printed with the Cuddle a Reader logo.

It is well documented that parents who read aloud to their infants and toddlers, talking about the pictures and words in age-appropriate books while cuddling with their children, greatly strengthen their child’s language development, literacy development, and social-emotional development.

art-0401-cuddle-a-reader2According to research cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Early Childhood, “Children who are read to during infancy and preschool years have better language skills when they start school and are more interested in reading.” Parents can cuddle with their babies while pointing to and naming pictures in books and acting out the pictures with their hands, facial expressions and voices.

Babies can look at a book their parents are holding, watch their parent’s facial expressions and begin to copy them, listen to the sounds of language, and interact with the board books by grasping and mouthing them.

The Cuddle a Reader, Create a Reader program was conceived by volunteers who felt that they could convey the importance of reading to babies as early as possible to many families by providing newborns with their first books. Mercy is the only hospital in the greater Redding area with an obstetrics department, and volunteers are able to go into the hospital rooms with the materials and a verbal message to parents. Not only do the infants benefit – siblings benefit as well and are encouraged to read to their new baby brothers/sisters.

Volunteers have received many positive comments from new parents, who often say they love the program and show enthusiastic appreciation. There are always smiles and “awws” from parents when they are shown the library card application.

art-0401-cuddle-a-reader3One father shared, “We’ve been reading to our baby [in utero] for months already.” Happily, volunteers hear this sentiment from parents quite often. Other comments include: “I’ve got goosebumps; this is such a great idea!” (from a new grandma), and “We’re going to have to buy some more books to read!”

First 5 Shasta and the volunteer program have proven to be an excellent partnership. First 5 provides the funding and educational literature, while volunteers provide the work hours and enthusiasm needed for implementation. Together they give support to parents by providing them with literature and materials to help them cultivate their children’s interest in reading and learning, literally from day one.

For more information contact Deanna Gunter, director of volunteer services at Mercy Medical Center Redding, at (530) 225-7550. 

Cathy Reisfelt
About Cathy Reisfelt

Cathy Reisfelt is a retired school speech-language pathologist. She is the chairperson for the Cuddle a Reader, Create a Reader program. Cathy says getting to see brand new babies snuggling with their adoring parents is the highlight of her week!

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