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Ann Arbor District Library donates books to Mott Children’s to launch Book Babies initiative

Allison Porter, Rich Retyi and Brenda Henne pose with boxes of books for the Book Babies program on March 5, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Allison Porter, Rich Retyi and Brenda Henne pose with boxes of books for the Book Babies program on March 5, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)


ANN ARBOR – Late Tuesday morning, staff from Ann Arbor District Library pulled up to University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital to make a special delivery: The first installation of roughly 2,000 books for the hospital's new Book Babies initiative.

Educational specialists at the hospital approached the Ann Arbor District Library one year ago to provide books to infant patients and their families. The library used $14,000 from the Marcy Westerman Fund for the donation.

Volunteer Coordinator for the Ann Arbor District Library, Shoshana Hurand, applies stickers to books for the Book Babies program on Feb. 28, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Volunteer Coordinator for the Ann Arbor District Library, Shoshana Hurand, applies stickers to books for the Book Babies program on Feb. 28, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

"It’s a fund that Marcy and her husband (local educator W. Scott Westerman) started near the end of her life, and were looking for a place to donate money toward kids and youth," said AADL Communications and Marketing Manager Rich Retyi. "And she was really into early reading, like reading to babies and infants. So this lined up perfectly with taking some money from that fund that has been at the library for a while. We’re super happy to help establish the foundation with Book Babies.

"It’s really nice because you’ve got a lot of kids and parents who are from the area, they’re spending a lot of time here and now they can read to their kids and have this to take home. It’s great to be a part of."

"We are just thrilled," said educational specialist and hospital educator Allison Porter. "A lot of our babies get admitted right from birth, so they’re very young. The program will have us (staff) and trained tutors working and modeling what reading with a baby looks like, strategies they can use, what types of books are appropriate to be reading with a baby."

Members of AADL and Mott Children's staff pose with boxes of books for the inaugural Book Babies program on March 5, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Members of AADL and Mott Children's staff pose with boxes of books for the inaugural Book Babies program on March 5, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

The trained tutors are volunteers who will be on site seven days a week to read to infants in the case that parents and family members are not available due to work commitments or caring for other children at home.

"It's the foundation that Ann Arbor District Library is building for our Book Babies program and without that foundation, we would not be able to launch this and do what the work is that we’re intending to do for our patients aged zero to 12 months -- that’s the age range of Book Babies," said Brenda Henne, school liaison and education specialist for Mott Children's Congenital Heart Center.

The library donated dozens of board book titles to the program, including classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin and Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andrae.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that caregivers begin reading to children at birth to best help nurture young minds and prepare them for future success. Reading is also a way for caregivers and children to strengthen their bond and spend time together." - C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

"Our goal is that every baby is read to every single day while they’re here in the hospital and that those habits can continue once they’re discharged home," said Porter. "The books are all theirs to keep, thanks for wonderful donors like the Ann Arbor District Library."

Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner

The program will begin at Mott Children's Congenital Heart Center and will expand into other wings of the hospital like the various intensive care units.

While this is not the first partnership between the AADL and Mott Children's, it is the largest donation to date.

"There have been various partnerships with Mott specifically and AADL, but this is the biggest book-related (donation)," said Retyi. AADL donates a lot of books to waiting rooms. We’ve built a website where we have a lot of audiobooks available for patients now and their families. We’ve taped storytimes and offer them on the Get Well Network.

"So, we have these ongoing initiatives. It makes a lot of sense that we have a lot of kids who can’t come to the library that are in the area and so we try to bring that to them."

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