[Platteville, WI] —- It’s been said that children are both the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future. It is with that inspired outlook that the Platteville Optimist Club and Platteville Public Library continue their commitment to providing books for babies newly born at Southwest Health’s Birthing Center.
Born in 2007, the program is a partnership that continues today thanks to the dedication and commitment of three organizations that are truly optimistic about youth and about the future. Richard and Jean Schumacher pioneered the program at its inception. Afterward, Holly Feuling of the Library managed the program on behalf of the Optimist Club until 2012 when Optimist volunteer Fern Nall assumed responsibility.
Nall works annually with Erin Isabell of the Platteville Public Library to select books. They are purchased by the Library with funds from the Optimist Club, and packets are distributed to new parents and their tiny arrivals by the Birthing Center staff at Southwest Health. In addition to a carefully selected book, each packet contains Library material emphasizing the benefits of reading to children, a list of recommended children’s books, a letter of congratulations from the Optimist Club, and educational material detailing the Club’s mission of the club and highlighting the youth organizations they support.
About 140 packets are given to families each year, and that number is growing. In fact, Southwest Health anticipates a rise to about 200 births in 2016. Birthing center staff point out the Babies for Books packets are warmly received by new parents, and research indicates reading has a tremendous long-term benefit for children in all facets of life.
The team responsible for coordinating the Books for Babies program are (from left) Southwest Health OB Supervisor Meghan Raeder, RN; Platteville Optimist Club Volunteer Fern Nall, and Platteville Public Library Head of Children’s Services Erin Isabell.