Community Outreach

‘Books for Babies’ Program Encourages Lifelong Reading

baby looking at a book

Research proves it: Reading to babies is good for them. It engages their senses, encourages language development and it strengthens the emotional bond with their parents.

“We know that babies tend to listen to mommy’s voice even when they’re in the womb,” says Shehla Siddiqui, MD, medical director of CHOP Newborn Care at Doylestown Hospital. “When we start reading to them, it stimulates their brain.”

In fact, a 2107 study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that reading to babies can boost their vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school.

First Books

This is exactly the idea behind the Books for Babies program that started in November 2021 at Doylestown Health’s VIA Maternity Center. As part of a grant through the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to promote early literacy for families, the program was brought to Doylestown Hospital by Dr. Siddiqui. She learned of it through the CHOP network.

Danielle Malat, MS, RN, BSN, a staff maternity nurse, is the program’s champion. “This program is something I embraced when Dr. Siddiqui first mentioned it to us,” she said. “I agreed to be the Books for Babies champion because I firmly believe that reading helps a person grow in so many ways. I personally enjoy reading and loved reading to my sons when they were little.”

The program uses a board book titled, “Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug,” which is a rhythmic story told through the baby’s perspective and conveys safe sleep practices.

Packets to Go

Since the program’s start, Danielle ensures every family receives a Books for Babies packet that is wrapped in a compostable plastic bag and includes: the baby board book; information about Reach Out and Read and Reading Rockets — both programs of the U.S. Department of Education; a flier that includes information for visiting a local library; and an ABCD’s of Reading bookmark. The bag is sealed with a Happy Birthday sticker.

“We like to think the packet is the babies’ first birthday present they receive,” Danielle says, smiling.

More than 1,200 babies a year are delivered at Doylestown Health VIA Maternity Center, and Danielle’s goal for the program is to distribute that same number of packets including the books in either English or Spanish.

“I like that our program gives moms one book to read to the baby right away because sometimes, especially with first moms, they struggle with getting time to find and read a book,” says Dr. Siddiqui.

So far, the feedback has been all positive from staff but especially from parents who, according to Danielle, seem very grateful for the books.

“I hope that handing out these packets will give our families another great reason to remember Doylestown Health and come back and tell their friends and families about us,” Danielle says.


About Doylestown Health's VIA Maternity Center

Doylestown Health's VIA Maternity Center is rated among the best in the region for maternity care with services available for every stage of pregnancy through the birth experience. The VIA Maternity Center features a 32-bed maternity unit that includes 9 labor, delivery & recovery rooms, 22 private post-partum rooms, and a Level II NICU staffed by CHOP neonatologists.

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