Oneida County Books for Babies Kicks Off

Library Initiative Officially Launches at MVHS

Beginning today, every Oneida County newborn will receive a free book. Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. officially kicked off the Books for Babies program Monday at Mohawk Valley Health System’s Faxton Campus.

Designed to engage parents in the importance of reading print books at an early age, the initiative is administered through the Mid York Library System and the Utica and Jervis Public Libraries. The $25,000 the county allotted for the program was made possible due to the gaming revenue collected as part of the Oneida Nation settlement agreement.

“Studies show that reading to babies and toddlers helps them learn to speak and build vocabulary, while also creating a stronger bond with their caregivers,” Picente said. “This program will give the youth of our county a leg up in building a strong foundation in literacy.”

Each Oneida County newborn will receive a tote bag at the hospital of their birth containing the New York Times best-selling book “On the Night You were Born” by Nancy Tillman, along with a growth chart, library information and educational materials on literacy and healthy eating habits.

"We are thrilled to have the Books for Babies initiative at MVHS Maternal Services," said Heidi Coluzza, MS, RN, NEA-BC, director of Nursing at MVHS. "MVHS welcomes more than 2,000 newborns into the world every year. We are committed to caring for our patients from birth through development and by engaging them in reading with the Books for Babies program helps us to do just that."

Oneida County budgeted $47,500 in 2018 to support library initiatives. In addition to the Books for Babies Program, the county also funded a summer reading program and helped to increase the library system’s eBooks and digital audio books collection.

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and Nation Enterprises CEO said: “The most important investment a community can make is in education and its youth. We are honored to partner with Oneida County and local leaders in supporting an essential program that is consistent with everything our community values.”

Chris Sagaas, Director of Utica Public Library said: "The Books for Babies Program has strengthened our partnership with MVHS and we see this program as just the first step in our efforts to raise healthy lifelong library users. This initiative has sparked conversations about how the library and MVHS can work together to enrich the lives of people of all ages in Oneida County.”

Lisa Matte, Director Jervis Public Library said: "Children who live in homes that contain at least 20 books receive the equivalent of three more years of education than children whose homes do not include books. This lack of access to books and reading time at home creates a 30 million-word gap when these children enter school. Books for Babies is a tremendous first step in eliminating that 30-million word gap and putting all children in the county on equal footing."

Wanda R. Bruchis, Executive Director of the Mid York Library System said: "This partnership funding project is a wonderful way to welcome our newest community members. It delivers the gift of reading in a bag and demonstrates the importance of reading to infants and young children. Oneida County and the Oneida Nation are committed to increasing access to literacy opportunities, and the libraries are proud to be a partner in this initiative. I cannot think of a better and important lifetime gift to welcome our newest residents."