'Books for Babies and ... You' program

Bridger Douglas Altwine receives a book in December 2017. He is one of 25,000 babies who have received books from the "Books for Babies and ... You" program. His parents are Andy and Marilyn Altwine, and he is the great-grandson of Linda Altwine, founder of the program. 

Courtesy photo

"Books for Babies and … You" celebrates its book program for babies from 5 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Billings Public Library in the Royal Johnson Community Room on first floor.

The "Books for Babies and … You" program provides each baby born at either of the two Billings hospitals a book bag with a touch-and-feel board book plus library story times and other related information for parents.

Since September 2008, babies born in Billings have received book bags which helped them start on the path of lifelong learning and literacy.

Billings Junior Women’s Club members started delivering book bags in 2007 with one random day a month delivery to Billings Clinic Birth Center. Saint Vincent Healthcare was added in 2008.

A partnership formed in April 2008 between three organizations — Women's Clubs/Billings, Junior Women's Club and the Friends of Parmly Billings Library — to keep the program going.

Each newborn receives a book bag with a touch-and-feel book, a booklet about reading to babies, a Books and Babies brochure, an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) brochure, a bookmark, and a magnet with Billings Public Library story times.

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'Books for Babies and ... You'

Organizers of the "Books for Babies and ... You" program are: standing from left, Bev Ferguson, Kathy Broyles, Lynn Ehresman, Barb Barrett, Sandy Mueller, Linda Pickard, Becky McGill, Linda Altwine and Mary Huffmaster; and kneeling from left, Bev Silkwood, Marsha Hotchkiss and Judy Senteney.

One day a month members bag books, materials, and prepare boxes for hospital delivery. The boxes are delivered to each hospital and additional boxes are delivered as needed.

Billings Clinic nurses and Saint Vincent Healthcare volunteers deliver the book bag to the newborns and their family.

Research indicates that reading to a baby promotes emotional and communication development, builds bonds between mother and baby, and helps children learn all the sounds they need to have started speaking by their first birthday. 

GFWC/BJWC Education Committee’s mission is to support and increase literacy in our community by developing and promoting educational programs for children and families.

Goals of the education committee of the two women's clubs in Billings follow:

Insure that books reach a large number of families. Each year 20 percent of the babies born in Montana are given book bags at Billings Clinic and Saint Vincent Healthcare.

Put books in the hands of children. BJWC has three programs that get books into the hands of children. 

Encourage families to use the public library. Book bags include library schedules, library care applications, and a brochure about the “Books and Babies” program held at Billings Public Library.

Get parents to read and enjoy books with their children. More than 2,400 books are delivered yearly to both hospitals. Many parents share that their older children are reading to the baby with the book they received.

Increase literacy. The Billings Junior Women's Club provides an additional reading program for toddlers and their parents stressing the importance of reading. One mother of a 2-year-old commented that the only book her child has is the one she received at the hospital.

"Books for Babies and … You" is one of three literacy programs that GFWC and Billings Junior Women’s Club supports. “Read to Your Bunny” is a program for the parents of young children stressing the importance of reading. Parents and children each receive a book after the presentation and at follow-up story times.

Children that remain in Billings Clinic for more than two days receive a Pediatric Activity Bag with writing materials and drawing materials, activity books and a book to read. 

For more information, visit www.familyreading.org.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.