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Queens partners help promote literacy

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Literacy in the borough is expected to get a shot in the arm thanks to a new promotion from two Queens-based organizations.

The Queens Borough Public Library and the Queens Health Network have teamed up to reinforce the power of reading to children as soon as they are born.

According to Joanne King, public relations officer for the Library, the program has been on the back burner for a while, and was finally activated earlier this month. With Queens Health Care assisting, two hospitals will take part in this new initiative.

Parents of newborns at Elmhurst Hospital and the Queens Hospital Center get a packet containing educational aids to facilitate early childhood literacy before they are discharged from the hospital.

Included in the packet is a baby bib, an elementary-level book for the family, and colorful literature on family literacy and child development. There is, of course, also a library card application.

“We are concerned about children learning to read from an early age, as it puts them at an advantage,” said King.

The pamphlets are loaded with tips and advice on how to get children interested in reading from a tender age. They are colorful and some include animal characters along with pictures of families reading together.

The idea for the project grew out of a partnership formed last year between the two Queens groups to facilitate better public information on health care.

Armed with grants from the New York State Library and the state Education Department, the Queens Library purchased the materials for the gift packages, and ordered the printing of the various books and pamphlets.

The program promotes the idea that babies are not too young to enjoy books and rhyming games, and it really is never too early to develop reading skills.

“Children who are read to develop early pre-literacy tips,” Rosanne Cerny, coordinator of children services at the library. “They are generally at an advantage when they enter into a school population.”

Program coordinators believe the program will reach about 25 percent of this year’s Queens newborns, or about 5,000 families.

Cerny says she is excited about the program, and is also looking to expand it to other hospitals providing there are sufficient funds available.

“We have incorporated the services of nurses from these hospitals, likewise, some nationally known illustrators, including Rosemary Welts and Cathryn Falwell to develop the material,” she said. “Also, the reading materials will include Spanish in the near future.”

Currently, the Queens Public Library serves a population of more than two million, in a county considered the most ethnically diverse. It is also the leader in circulation of materials among any public library system in the United States.

Herman Smith, regional director of human resources development for the Queens Health Network, is confident the partnership will reap sweet success. “It is very important, because it enables us to communicate with the community in much more profound way.”

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