Beaufort is filled with many organizations that meet the needs of its citizens, young and old. The partnerships that evolve are heartwarming and create a rippling affect throughout the community.
The Born To Read program is one such organization that began as a part of Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry and became an independent 501© 3 program in 2008. The mission of Born To Read is “to promote early childhood literacy and language development, while helping new parents understand their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher”. Born to Read’s Executive Director Janie Ephland schedules Volunteers 6 days a week to go to birthing centers at Hilton Head Hospital and Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital, and present a resource bag to all the new moms. The resource bag has information on the importance of reading and talking to a new baby to help develop their vocabulary and language skills so they will be prepared to enter school. A quarterly newsletter is then sent to each family to give additional suggestions and age appropriate activities for their children through the first 15 months of life.
Each resource bag has a board book for the baby, a rhyming book with reading tips/strategies, a list of community pediatricians, a 4 page reference for community resources for children and families, a Born To Read bib to remind families to talk to their children while feeding them, a Born To Read tee shirt to remind families to talk to their children while dressing them and doing daily activities. Volunteers also gather information from families that may be interested in adult education (GED or English) to assist in making a referral to the appropriate agencies that can help them. They also have applications for a Beaufort Public Library card and encourage families to take advantage of the library services.
When a volunteer enters a room that has other children or siblings visiting, they give them their own age appropriate book. Many of these books are graciously donated by individuals/organizations in the community. Many volunteers share their special stories about how giving siblings their own book will make them feel special. In one instance a child asked her father to read the book with her which gave that child some special attention in the midst of the excitement around the new baby.
Born to Read is a free service to parents and all materials are in both English and Spanish. It is a United Way funded agency and is also funded through grants and donations. Sponsoring partners are the Beaufort County School District, Beaufort County Library, and the Hilton Head, Beaufort Memorial and Coastal Carolina hospitals.