Read Wayne: Engaging Families through Welcome Baby Bags

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Photo of Welcome Baby Bag and contents; Courtesy Read Wayne

Early care and education give young children a strong start in life, and parents are their children’s first teachers, introducing them to literacy and life experiences. We were inspired to learn about the Welcome Baby Bag project, from North Carolina Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) community Read Wayne, to immediately engage, empower, and welcome parents into their new role.

How we treat our children, parents, and loved ones and how we value those who care for them are fundamental to who we are. North Carolina’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has a vision where diverse and inclusive communities grow thriving readers, beginning at birth and continuing through third grade, so each child is prepared for success. Thirteen community collaboratives, including Read Wayne hosted by Wayne County Public Library, currently participate in the NC Campaign. 

Read Wayne started in 2014 and joined CGLR in 2017, as the sixth county to join the campaign. Donna Phillips, who started out as a Children’s Librarian and is now the director of the Wayne County Public Library spearheaded Read Wayne and has been the inspiration for the partners in the coalition of community partners working to improve third grade reading achievement. The team at the library and with Read Wayne is so much more than librarians; they are advocates for books, focused on collaboration with community partners, and huge advocates for child literacy, starting at birth. 

Starting Reading at Birth in Wayne County

Read Wayne engages both families and a variety of community partners through the Welcome Baby Bag project. The program is hosted in partnership with UNC Health Wayne Hospital, the only hospital in the county. The hospital sees approximately 100 deliveries a month so the goal is to deliver 100 bags per month for each new baby to receive. 

“The reason this program is so important to us is because parents need to understand the importance of reading from birth,” said Heather Gray, Reference Librarian for Literacy and Outreach at Wayne County Public Library. “Also, parents are often bombarded with information on how to be a good parent, but this is to encourage that 10-20 minutes (of reading) a day and let them know about resources that our community partners provide.” 

At the hospital, new parents are given a UNC Health Wayne screen printed bag; board book custom printed with Read Wayne and Wayne County Public Library logos; a guide, in English and Spanish, to help parents have a richer reading experience; and a bunny lovey. Handmade by a local community member, often a senior citizen, member of a nearby church, or a teen, the bunny lovey/security blanket can foster warm feelings of attachment, while reading with their caregivers. 

Early Literacy Engagement From Birth

When they receive this Welcome Baby bag, Wayne County families are getting the message of the importance of early literacy. It’s the first opportunity for Read Wayne and Wayne County Public Library to reach out and engage with the family, supporting their journey as parents, helping them get connected to the library, and enabling them to have awareness of other resources available to them. 

The Welcome Baby Program is made up of many different community stakeholders, including:

  • UNC Health Wayne
  • Partnership for Children Wayne County
  • Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Churches and civic organizations
  • Teen groups
  • Goldsboro Pediatrics
  • Wayne County Public Library

As it so happens, November is Family Engagement Month! Read Wayne is not just a group of people doing these things; it’s a call to action to inspire people to keep doing these activities and increase collaborative partnerships throughout the community. Involving families in their children’s development and education leads to lifelong health and success. 

“Everything we do has to be focused on parent success, so they can be empowered to support their children before they reach kindergarten,” said Heather. “We hope that the tips with the board book, including photos within the book, will empower the parents to read with their child. It’s something they can enjoy with their children.” The Welcome Baby bags help simplify and make that message more engaging, contributing to their child’s development as a reader. 

According to Child Care Aware, we celebrate brain building through engaging with families, since 

  • Children’s brains grow the most rapidly during the first five years of life!
  • Parents are children’s first and most important teachers and
  • 90% of brain growth happens before kindergarten.
  • Families have what it takes to be brain-builders!

Strong family engagement is central to promoting children’s healthy development and wellness. It is important for schools, early learning settings, and communities to welcome families, plan for family engagement, and assist families in engaging their child’s learning. With a goal to help influence the increase of literacy in children between the ages of birth to five years old, Read Wayne strives to support school readiness, so when those children enter kindergarten they will score more proficiently on the entry assessment. 

NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Since 2015, the NC Early Childhood Foundation has served as the state lead for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in North Carolina. The national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has mobilized 300 communities across the country to ensure that more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. It is a collaborative effort by foundations, non-profit organizations, business leaders and government agencies supporting children’s school readiness, summer learning and regular school attendance.

Keep in Touch with NCEF and Support Our Work

Please be sure to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to keep up with our work helping the lives of North Carolina families, from their earliest days. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.