What makes Book Babies innovative?
Parents are the key.
The program’s success lies with parents. By reading to their children for 15 minutes every day, they expose
their children to a million words a year and nourish their brains for a lifetime of literacy. We provide tools
(books), information, and support, but the parents are the agents of change. As they engage with their
children every day during the first five years, they put their children on a path to school readiness.
Our approach is personal.
Every year from the baby’s birth to age five, Book Harvest staff make home visits to enrolled families;
during these visits, we provide lots of new books to each enrolled Medicaid-eligible family. Each book
delivery visit doubles as a literacy coaching session; at kitchen tables and on living room sofas, Book Babies
team members model reading with the child and discuss early literacy skills with parents.
Our strategy is direct and multifaceted.
We start at birth, laying the foundation for literacy in the earliest days, when brain development is at its
most potent. By the time a child graduates from Book Babies and starts kindergarten, s/he will own at least
120 new books and will have received at least 12 literacy coaching home visits. We supplement the visits
with a robust array of additional supports, including bi-weekly reading and developmental tips via text
message to parents, family gatherings at the Durham County Library, parent book clubs and advisory
groups, and help with applying for a library card and finding high-quality pre-K.
We are committed to finding what works.
Will Book Babies participants enter school ready to learn? Will they have higher emergent literacy skills and
a measurable advantage for future school success? Could this program confer lifelong benefits? We aim to
find out: in 2017, we are partnering with Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy to evaluate
the longitudinal impact of the Book Babies program on the literacy skills and school readiness of infants
born in 2017 and 2018, assessing their literacy development alongside two control groups over five years.
Our goal is ambitious—and achievable.
Our unique combination of providing home visits and books equips parents to be the change agents for
their children during the critically important preschool years. Book Babies parents, with our support, can
help ensure that their children’s school readiness is on par with their higher-income peers. The result? A
lifetime of benefits for all children, as income-based achievement gaps that hold us all back are narrowed
and, finally, closed.
What are parents saying about Book Babies?
“I have been able to see the huge difference in how my kids are interested in reading since before when I
did not have books. My oldest daughter did not like reading, but when my other three kids began to read
different types of books, she became interested in them. For me, this has been a huge, huge help.”
“My baby gets access to plenty of books now. I believe as I read to him and as one of your members visits
twice a year, his brain development will be ahead of babies who do not use the same resources.”
“We share as a family and read every day to our children at least 15 minutes a day.”
SPECIAL THANKS to our investors who make this work possible: Oak Foundation, William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable
Trust, PNC Grow Up Great, Mericos Foundation, Morgan Creek Foundation, Dowd Foundation, Triangle
Community Foundation, the Reilly-Cullinan Fund, and dozens of individual donors!