(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser celebrated the third anniversary of the highly successful Books from Birth program at Briya Public Charter School in Ward 1. Since the program launched in 2016, 793,685 books have been mailed to babies and children across all eight wards. The Mayor was joined at the celebration by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and DC Public Library (DCPL) Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan.
“We know that reading to children – especially very young children – gives them an advantage in life. We want every child in Washington, DC to have that advantage,” said Mayor Bowser. “Let’s continue working together to get every eligible child enrolled in Books from Birth; let’s work together to give every child in Washington, DC the strong start and the fair shot they deserve.”
The Books from Birth program has grown rapidly since launching in February 2016. Today, 33,518 children, nearly 80 percent of District children under age 5, are enrolled in the program. In the program’s target wards (Wards 1, 5, 7, and 8), 85 percent of eligible children are enrolled in Books from Birth. Already, 9,013 children have graduated from the program by reaching their fifth birthday.
“Three years ago the Mayor and I kicked off this incredible program to help tackle early childhood literacy,” said Councilmember Allen. “We know that to succeed children need books and they need adults that read to them. Not every child has a home where this happens, but in three years of Books from Birth, 793,000 books have been given out for free to over 42,000 DC kids. I was proud this was my first initiative on the Council, and grateful to have a partner like Mayor Bowser and DC Public Library who share this vision and have worked so hard to make it a success.”
The success of the program is in large part due to the DC Public Library’s partnerships and aggressive outreach. Additionally, through a partnership with the DC Department of Health, families of babies born in Washington, DC are able to enroll before leaving the hospital through a new mother worksheet. At today’s event, the Mayor called on more organizations that work with children and families in Washington, DC to partner with the District on the Books from Birth program.
The Books from Birth program is part of the DCPL Sing, Talk, and Read initiative, which is focused on helping parents and caregivers give their children strong starts in literacy by incorporating reading and language-based interactions into daily routines. The STAR initiative is based on research showing that when parents and caregivers positively engage with a baby through conversations and gestures, those interactions support a baby’s brain development and language skills. When these interactions do not happen, researchers estimate that a baby misses out on hearing roughly 30 million total words by age four. If left unaddressed, this word gap can lead to disparities in school readiness and have a detrimental effect on a child’s long-term academic success.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced legislation that established the Books from Birth program. The books are provided by Imagination Library, a nonprofit child literacy program started by country singer Dolly Parton. Families can enroll in the Books from Birth program at dclibrary.org/freebooks.