DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - With her newborn son snuggled in a baby basket next to her hospital bed, Klayvon Sepulveda reads a poem. The words are lyrical and soothing.
Though Alexander is only seven hours old, the 23-year-old mother can feel a connection forming. "To have him hear your voice and the love that comes with that – I think that's a very important thing," Sepulveda said.
The ambition of the new Books for Dallas Babies program at Parkland Hospital is to strengthen the bond between mom and baby and promote a culture of literacy for years to come.
In partnership with the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and through donations provided by charitable foundations, mothers of every new baby born at Parkland this year (more than 10,000) will receive a copy of a board book, written especially for them to share with their children.
Judi Moreillon is the author of "Read To Me." Moreillon is a library science teacher at Texas Women's University.
She originally wrote the poem in 1997 for a teen pregnancy program in Tucson Arizona. It begins:
"Read to me and watch me grow.
Tell me all the tales you know.
For in this life, I'll need a map.
Let it begin upon your lap."
"It's one of the reasons the poem is written in rhyme, because the rhythmic sound of language replicates the heartbeat in the womb," said Moreillon.
The board book is available in Spanish, English, and Vietnamese, based on the three most prevalent native languages of new mothers who give birth at Parkland.
The first page opens with encouragement for mothers on the importance of reading to, singing to, and playing with babies, and ends with advice on how to take advantage of the public library system.
"This is such an easy way to connect with new moms and help create and to grow a culture of readers and library users in North Texas," said Kate Park, executive director of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library.
The idea for Books for Dallas Babies came from North Oak Cliff children's author Trish Holland. Holland writes children's books with the motivation in mind of a parent and child reading together, cuddling and sharing the experience.
Information from the American Academy of Pediatrics stressing the importance of reading to babies right from the beginning caused her to want to be involved in bridging the gap that comes with economic disparities.
Not every baby comes from a home full of books.
"The baby – the thing they want the most is to be cuddled by loving families. Having this experience of reading makes it such a warm, wonderful, rewarding experience that they can carry further in life. Reading is something they will associate with wonderful things," said Holland.
Motherhood can be overwhelming, says Sepulveda. She is encouraged by the book, and the message to read to her children. "I think it's a great idea because a lot of moms – sometimes they don't even know where to start for their kids so just by this book itself, it's very helpful."
Parkland nurses have handed out nearly 1,000 copies since January 1.
Neonatal nurse Jennifer Hill says this is the first time the hospital has received a donation of books that will touch every single new baby. "It helps with neurological development and language development in babies."
FODPL raises money and support for the library system. The ultimate goal of the project is to put the board books in more North Texas hospitals.
"It's very affirming to me that this little poem has a rebirth, and is influencing other people in the world," said Moreillon.
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