Bringing the Gift of Board Books to Newborns

In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, there’s something timeless and magical about holding a physical book in your hands. For newborns at Mercyhealth and UW Health Women and Children’s Hospital, this enchanting experience is now more accessible than ever, thanks to the United for Literacy collaborative. In a heartwarming initiative, board books are being supplied to the newest members of our community, setting them on a path toward a lifelong love of reading.

“Our Books for Babies Program is an effort by the Mercyhealth NICU with the aid of the Mercyhealth Development Foundation and United for Literacy to gift a brand new book to each patient admitted,” said Jennifer Johns, Director of the Mercyhealth Development Foundation. “The objective is to create a stockpile of new books to be able to provide this gift for all patients to take home. We aim to promote engagement with our patient’s parents to supplement brain growth and development by reading to our high risk population. We currently see about 30 patients each month in our NICU and anticipate about 360 new patients a year.”

“We give every baby born at UW Health one of the board books that have been donated through United for Literacy,” said Jen Callison, Director of Women and Children’s Services at UW Health in northern Illinois. “We’ve already gifted more than 2,000 books this year along with educating families on all the benefits of reading to babies as soon as they’re born. Parents are always so thankful and love that their baby is going home with their first book!”

Why Board Books?

Board books are the perfect introduction to the world of literature for newborns and infants. Their sturdy, thick pages are designed to withstand the inevitable chewing, drooling, and tugging that come with a baby’s exploration. The vibrant illustrations and simple text engage young minds, fostering an early connection to books and stories.

Promoting Early Literacy

The importance of early literacy cannot be overstated. Research shows that reading to children from birth helps build their vocabulary, enhances cognitive development, and strengthens the parent-child bond. These initial interactions with books lay the foundation for a child’s future academic success and love for reading.

United for Literacy Collaborative

The United for Literacy collaborative is an inspiring effort that unites organizations, volunteers, and donors to improve early literacy in our community. By supplying board books to newborns at Mercyhealth and UW Health, this program takes a significant step in promoting literacy right from the start. It recognizes that every child should have access to the joys and benefits of reading, regardless of their circumstances.

Impact Beyond Words

The impact of this initiative extends beyond the pages of the books themselves. By providing board books to newborns and their families, United for Literacy encourages parents to become their child’s first and most important teacher. Reading to infants promotes positive parent-child interactions, nurturing a sense of security and love.

How You Can Get Involved

If you’re inspired by the idea of providing board books to newborns and fostering a love for reading, there are several ways to get involved:

  1. Donate: Consider making a monetary donation to the United Way. Your contribution will help provide board books to more newborns and their families.
  2. Volunteer: Many hands make light work. You can volunteer your time to assist with various early literacy initiatives across Winnebago County by visiting
  3. Spread the Word: Share the work of United for Literacy on social media, within your community, or among your friends and family. The more people who know about this initiative, the more support it can garner.

United for Literacy’s effort to supply board books to newborns at Mercyhealth and UW Health is a beautiful example of how a community can come together to nurture the next generation’s love for reading. By promoting early literacy, this initiative ensures that every child, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to explore the enchanting world of books right from the very start of their journey. It’s a heartwarming reminder that the gift of reading is a gift that keeps on giving.