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New Island program encourages reading right away to newborn babies

Roots to Read launched last month at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital

A new program intends to plant the seeds of literacy in the minds of newborn babies in Nanaimo.

Roots to Read, a grassroots program, launched today, June 1, and will provide material for parents at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital so they can instill a love of reading for their infant. Run by volunteers, Roots to Read provides a cloth bag to parents with two new books, educational reference cards, tips for parents and information about accessing Vancouver Island Regional Library.

While newborns can’t read, there are benefits when parents read to them, said Dr. Jane Pegg, Roots to Read volunteer. A baby’s brain grows the most in the first year of life and most of the brain growth is done by five years, she said at the kick-off event.

“It’s really, really important while those roots in our brain are growing, to stimulate them,” said Pegg. “If they don’t get stimulated, they actually don’t grow. So early stimulation of those roots, with literacy exposure, which is talking, reading, singing in any language, eye contact, doing those interactive giggly games, those things are what promote the language development and future literacy for babies.”

Dr. William Ehman, another volunteer, said books included in bags will be authored by local writers.

“I think what we’ll always try to do is choose something that is culturally important, that will be readable and do the things that we want it to do, which is to encourage interaction … we want to keep it simple, we want to keep it effective and we want it keep it sustainable and I think that’s the big thing,” said Ehman.

While literacy-based apps are available for mobile devices, Pegg said there is no substitute for reading a book.

“The problem with electronics is they’re one way,” said Pegg. “There’s no serve-and-return feature and it’s that [feature], where you interact with your baby, your baby responds, you respond to your baby, that language communication actually promotes literacy and language development.”

Roots to Read is completely reliant on donations. To contribute via Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation or to find out more information, visit

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