Project aims to get new Detroit mothers reading to babies

United Way gets new Detroit mothers to read to babies with starter kit


DETROIT – A United Way volunteer is walking the halls of the maternity ward at Sinai-Grace Hospital with a start-up kit for new parents to help them commit to reading to their new baby for 15 minutes each day.

Allyson Jones delivers an unexpected gift to new parents at the Detroit hospital. She's giving them the book "Time for Bed" and a magnetic picture frame.

With the gift, Jones is asking for something in return: for parents to read to their new baby for 15 minutes every day. Lashawna Vereen signed the contract and made the commitment for her new daughter, Madison. Chonita Wilson signed it, too.

"I think that is extremely important, especially for a city like this," Wilson said. "Where a lot of people may lack in other areas, well, now you have no excuse."

The two moms are among 300 parents to commit since the United Way launched this project in the fall with the help of a $27 million donation from the GM Foundation.

"We've gotta make sure that we start from the day of a child's birth to really capture those first three years of promise where the brain develops in order to be successful when they come into high school," said Michael Tenbusch, vice president for educational preparedness at United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Wilson can't wait to read her new book to her daughter. She started reading to her little girl while she was still in the womb. For these parents, it's about reading and creating memories with your child.

"And that memory, as they get older, will help them be resilient," said Jones. "And that's been shown in research. Children that have a literacy-rich environment and nurturing relationship with their parent, they are more resilient when they get older."

By July, the United Way plans to be in two more hospitals signing up new parents.

For more information on the project, go to www.liveunitedsem.org/pages/early-learning-communities.