August 4, 2022 | Benay Hicks
Book Babies, a Book Harvest program, launched in Durham County in 2013 to provide free literacy support to families of Medicaid eligible children. An evidence-informed literacy coaching partnership, Book Babies begins when a baby is born and is sustained over five years.
Throughout the duration of the program, families receive quarterly customized literacy coaching and 20 new, age appropriate children’s books every year from birth until their children start kindergarten. Trained literacy coaches work with parents to develop their skills and confidence by providing them with the information and resources needed to develop the foundation for learning and reading success. Together, they set goals for the Book Baby, mark their progress as they prepare for school, and help ensure that they start kindergarten ready to learn.
Book Babies consists of three evidence-based activities:
Book Provision – Books are provided to the family at the very first meeting, and each Book Baby receives approximately 20 age and developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant books per year.
Family Engagement – Families are actively engaged in events and home visits (in-home and virtual) with Book Babies team members who work with them over five full years, forming trusted relationships.
Literacy Coaching – Trained literacy coaches partner with parents to model dialogic reading during literacy coaching sessions (home visits). Dialogic reading promotes interactive reading, language skills development, and early literacy skills. The 16 literacy coaching sessions are delivered in-person and virtually, and are based on our evidence-informed curriculum. They include goal setting and the provision of brand new, culturally appropriate and age-appropriate books. When a Book Baby turns two-and-a-half years old, a literacy kits (“lit kits”) is included with every home visit — the lit kits and books are mailed if the home visit is being done virtually.
A Book Babies lit kit may include the following:
● Crayons ● Pencils and Sharpener ● Play Doh ● Toddler Scissors ● Glue Stick ● Drawing pad
During a home visit involving a lit kit, Book Babies literacy coaches engage with parents and model different early literacy activities filled with conversation and creation in order to promote emergent writing practices at home. For children between 2.5-4 years of age, visits typically last between 45 to 60 minutes to allow for the incorporation of the modeling of emergent writing and use of lit kit materials. With these materials, parents are invited to engage with their child as they sculpt letters out of playdough, practice drawing letters with crayons, and cut out shapes, for example. These activities promote fine-motor skills and encourage the child to manipulate the sounds that make up words in spoken language, considered a precursor to reading.
A literacy kit tip sheet is provided along with examples of activities parents can implement alongside the books provided by Book Harvest during the visit. For the book A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, parents are invited to encourage their child to 1) make big and small “snow” balls with playdough; 2) invite their child to trace his/her hand and/or foot and trace theirs, as well, using different colors, then compare sizes and colors (big/small, light/dark) talk about the difference between footprints/handprints and tracing; 3) write their child’s name on every page their child draws/scribbles on; 4) model and practice correct pencil hold when drawing; encourage child to tear paper and maybe using scissors to cut playdough and paper; sculpt with playdough, make different shapes and name them.
We are grateful to Duke’s Office of Durham and Community Affairs helping to make our literacy kits possible!