As a result, Young founded Book Babies and enrolled its first class of newborns in 2013. Every year until they start kindergarten, the program delivers a set of books to Medicaid-eligible families in Durham County for the child to keep. They also provide at-home literary coaching sessions for parents where families learn how to implement various strategies aimed at setting their children up for success.
Young said that the home visits have allowed her to get to know the families well over the course of the five-year program. She said she has seen how committed the parents are to their children’s education.
“I think what makes the program successful is that we partner with parents,” Book Babies team leader Meytal Barak said. “Over time we create a bond and a relationship of trust that ultimately benefits their children.”
The program is also being reviewed by researchers at Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy. A previous study by Duke found that the Book Babies Class of 2018 and 2019 showed higher rates of kindergarten preparedness than children in a comparison group. Duke is also planning to conduct future studies with the program.
Alma Ruiz, whose son graduated from the program Saturday, said that Book Babies was a positive opportunity that prepared her son for school. She said she started reading to him when he was a month old. Now that they have a collection of books, he is able to pick one that he wants to read and tells her about the pictures he sees. For her, Saturday’s ceremony was an exciting celebration where she was able to see all the work the program has done.
“I could never imagine that there were so many parents involved in this,” Ruiz said in Spanish.
Currently, Book Babies has over 300 families enrolled across Durham County, and they hope to continue growing.
“We would love for every child that is born in Durham that needs and wants books at home to have them,” Barak said. “Everyone has the right to enjoy the books. Book Babies is a pioneer in that area.”