Babies born at Mercy Hospital St. Louis won’t have to wait long to get their first library cards. The St. Louis County Library is expanding its Born to Read program to the hospital this year.
The program aims to promote early childhood literacy by partnering with several hospitals in the county. New parents receive a Born to Read bag, which includes their baby’s first library card as well as a board book, a St. Louis Cardinals beanie, a toothbrush and infant development information.
Kristen Sorth, the director of the St. Louis County Library, said the library decided to expand the program to Mercy Hospital St. Louis because it’s become one of the leading baby hospitals in St. Louis County.
“We started looking at the statistics and realized that there are about 9,000 babies born at Mercy Hospital every year,” Sorth said. “And so, we approached Mercy and said, ‘Can we expand our program and start giving out the Born to Read bags at the hospital?’”
More than 12,000 library cards and Born to Read bags were given to new parents in 2018.
The program got its footing in 2015, and more than 44,000 families have taken part since. Sorth said she encourages new parents to read to their kids even if they are infants.
“That really gives them a head start in being at the correct reading level for their grade when they start elementary school,” Sorth said. “And also, when kids start behind, they stay behind. It’s really hard to catch up once you have fallen behind. So if parents start saying the words out loud, talking to their babies, reading to them — even if they read the newspaper to them, it’s just a chance for those little kids to start to recognize words and make connections.”
Sorth said parents are invited to the library to celebrate their child’s first birthday, where they’ll receive another book.
“When they come back for their one-year birthday, or even before that when they come in to check out books for their baby, we start talking to them about the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program,” Sorth said. “So we encourage parents to read with their children and to try and read 1,000 books before kindergarten.”
Seven hospitals in the county are participating in the program:
- Missouri Baptist Medical Center
- Mercy Hospital St. Louis
- SSM DePaul Hospital-St. Louis
- Mercy Hospital South
- SSM Health St. Clare Hospital
- SSM St. Mary’s Health Center
- St. Luke’s Hospital
You can find more information about Born to Read here.
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