Your baby can (almost) read

“It’s never too late to learn to read, but it’s also never too early to start,” said Brian Hare, youth services manager for Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library. Hare is talking about early literacy—what a child knows about reading and writing before he or she can actually read or write. Early literacy instruction includes teaching babies and toddlers to hold a book, turn pages and recognize when the book is right-side-up.

Hare explained that encouraging early literacy could be a public library’s most important mission. “No other institution covers it, since it should happen before kindergarten or even preschool,” said Hare. Heights Libraries hosts story times for children of all ages every day, with different themes for specific age groups. Children can also attend Coventry Explorastory, a story-time program; and Kids in Harmony at Lee Road, a music-based story time.

On June 14 at 11 a.m., the University Heights Library is hosting Baby Boot Camp, a special program where new and expecting parents can learn about caring for their babies from day one. The program’s name is a nod to how absurd it might seem to be thinking about education when a child is so young, but a child entering kindergarten with a love of books and word play will have an advantage.

The event will feature Cassandra Hilliard, a registered nurse with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, who will give a presentation on how to care for newborns; a panel of different types of parents (adoptive, grandparents, multiples); family resource vendors, and a session on reading aloud conducted by a seasoned storyteller.

Shenee King, youth services associate at the University Heights Library, is leading this program. “I was a mother who had no experience with babies until I had my own,” she said. “There are very few resources out there for parents who happen to come from small families or have a limited access to adults with children. You can't always get the information you need.”

This program, the first in a series that will continue in the fall, will focus on physical wellness and teaching parents what they can do to get their babies’ mental gears going. Some ideas might seem counterintuitive until they are explained. For example, reading the same book repeatedly helps children exponentially: they memorize the story and then connect the text with the words. That is one of many techniques new parents will learn at Baby Boot Camp.

 For more information about Baby Boot Camp and early literacy, visit

Julia Murphy

Julia Murphy is the marketing assistant for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 3:47 PM, 06.02.2014