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Putting New Books into the Hands of Grand Island Babies

Making sure that babies are getting a head start on reading in the first two years of their life is the goal of the Growing Readers book project, spearheaded by the Grand Island Central School District. Over the course of two years, babies will be given a brand new book each time they have a well visit at Grand Island Pediatricians.

"Books are truly magic and sharing them with young children makes them readers for life," said Maureen Roussi, a prekindergarten teacher. "What we are hoping to accomplish with our Growing Readers endeavor is to provide parents and children with excellent books so that they are able to sit together, laugh together, read together and talk together about books."

The idea, based on a similar project done in West Seneca, has wide support from the organizing committee that has representatives from the school district, librarians and community groups all raising money to purchase the books. Through donations and fundraisers, the groups hopes to purchase enough books for approximately 450 children ages birth to two years. A meat raffle through the Grand Island Rotary Club is planned to help raise more funding. The date and location have not been determined.

"Reading to your infant models oral language, expands their understanding of the world, and helps them learn more words," said Beth Boron, a retired teacher, committee member and Grand Island Neighbors foundation member. "It helps them develop language and listening skills. Reading to young children is the single most important thing parents can do to ensure that their child will be successful in school. Spending time reading to your baby shows that reading is a skill worth learning."

Through the program, the baby will get its first book at two month visit. Pediatric well visits at six months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months will also include a new book for the baby, as well as a library application and a milestone language sheet that outlines voice, speech and language milestones that babies should reach within their first two years of life. The committee has chosen board books written by Sandra Boynton, including A-Z, Doggies, Horns to Toss, Blue Hat Green Hat, The Going to Bed Book and But Not the Hippopotamus.

"Reading with your child creates cherished memories of spending quality time with each other," said Sue Bognar, retired Grand Island Central School District speech language pathologist. "When reading books, you and your child are engaged in learning about the world together. These special moments during early childhood develop into deep bonds between parent and child."

The organizing committee includes Cheryl Cardone, director of pupil personnel services; Brian Graham, superintendent of schools and a member of the Grand Island Rotary Club; Sue Bogner, retired speech therapist; Pat Covely, town of Grand Island librarian; Mary Paonessa, GI Pediatrics; Denise Dunbar, Charlotte Sidway Elementary principal and administrator representative; Maureen Roussi, prekindergarten teacher and Grand Island Teachers Association representative; Stephanie Pritchard, William Kaegebein librarian; Amy Boutet, community education coordinator; Alicia Szyprowski, reading teacher; Linda Lichtenthal, School Related Professionals representative; Mary Cooke, Friends of the Library; Cindy Sharpe, district nurse and PTSA representative; Hank Kammerer and Beth Boron, Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island.