PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Health Commissioner John Domzalski celebrated the arrival of the Philadelphia "Books for Babies" program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) with the delivery of the first "Books for Babies" package to a mother and her newborn. Funded by a $45,000 grant from Verizon SuperPages, "Books for Babies" is a literacy initiative targeted to underserved families, and is being implemented by the Mayor's Commission on Literacy (MCOL).
"Books for Babies" links obstetric and pediatric providers together in one literacy effort, providing literacy outreach at three points during infancy. Before leaving the maternity wards of Pennsylvania Hospital and HUP, new mothers receive literacy packages that include a book for the newborn, information for parents about how to read to children and a coupon for a second and third book at the mother's routine postpartum visit and the infant's first well-child visit. The medical provider also counsels the mother on the importance of reading to her child. The mother receives additional books and further literacy counseling at the time of the infant's first well-child visit at 2-4 weeks of age at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and HUP. A third book and counseling is given during the mother's routine obstetric follow-up visits at HUP.
"By advocating daily exposure to literacy early in a child's life, we hope to encourage parents in their role as their children's first and most important teacher," said Rose Brandt, executive director, Mayor's Commission on Literacy. "Because of the commitment of Verizon SuperPages, Children's Hospital, HUP and Pennsylvania Hospital, we will be able to reach more than 3,000 families this year with the 'Books for Babies' program."
"The average reading level for mothers in Philadelphia aged 17 to 21 is below the sixth-grade level. Children whose parents read below national reading levels are at greater risk for reading difficulties," said Michelle Coxen, Verizon Information Services. "The national 'Books for Babies' program allows us to combat low literacy skills at the earliest developmental stages and raises the literacy levels of both children and parents."
A portion of the Verizon grant will finance a study to research the benefits the program has on the literacy promotion activities of the mothers and their children. Headed by Dr. Ian Bennett, Instructor, Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Health System, the study will measure the literacy activities of families enrolled in the program as well as the impact the program may have on participation in regular obstetric care.
"This research grant funded by Verizon SuperPages will allow us to measure the affects of literacy activity on children before the age of six months, " said Dr. Bennett. "This study also will examine the association between literacy skills and the adoption of health and well-being practices."
In addition, the assessment study will help shape other "Books for Babies" programs funded by Verizon SuperPages. Using the model created in Philadelphia, Verizon SuperPages will fund "Books for Babies" programs across the country in 2002. The initiative began in 1999 when Verizon funded a pilot program with the Richmond Area Reading Council in Richmond, Va.
Verizon SuperPages sponsors community outreach programs across the nation designed to increase the literacy rate of children and adults and to help people of all ages become computer literate. These programs are part of Verizon's overall commitment to leading the effort to increase U.S. literacy levels. Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, Verizon works to increase community and corporate awareness, raise funds, encourage collaboration among literacy providers and engage employees in supporting literacy programs.
Formed in 1983, the Mayor's Commission on Literacy (MCOL) in Philadelphia was the first literacy agency in the country to be established by a local governing body. The mission of the MCOL is to ensure that quality literacy education is available for all adult learners. The Commission realizes this mission by providing a central telephone number for individuals seeking to improve their basic skills and those wishing to volunteer as tutors; by assisting, supporting, and coordinating existing and new literacy sites, and by promoting adult literacy and advertising the availability of services.
Verizon Information Services is the world's leading print and online directory publisher and a content provider for communications products and services. Verizon operates in 16 countries and has annual revenues of more than $4.3 billion. The company publishes nearly 1,200 U.S. Verizon SuperPages directories and 400 international directories with a total circulation of approximately 150 million copies worldwide.
Verizon Information Services also produces and markets SuperPages.com, the Internet's #1 online directory and shopping resource. SuperPages.com receives as many as 12 million visits and 9 million unique visitors a month. SuperPages.com also powers directory services on MSN, InfoSpace, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, HotBot, BigFoot, Tripod and Angelfire.
Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, Verizon is committed to leading the fight to increase U.S. literacy levels by creating community and corporate awareness, raising funds, encouraging collaboration among literacy providers and engaging employees in supporting literacy programs. Verizon Information Services supports community outreach programs across the nation designed to increase the literacy rate of children and adults, and to help people of all ages become computer literate.
Based in the Dallas area, Verizon Information Services is a unit of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), one of the world's leading providers of communications services. For more information on Verizon Information Services, visit Verizon.SuperPages.com. For more information on Verizon's literacy programs, visit SuperPages.com and click on the Verizon Reads icon.