we don't just give, we engage!
The gift of reading for one child becomes the gift of reading for many.
The idea to start "First Library" came after my friend, Diane, had her first child. I wanted to give my love of reading to her and her newborn child. I sent Diane some books as a gift for her to read to her newborn son, Lubin.
Diane later explained that she was having a hard time finding English language children’s books to read to her son and that my books were the perfect gift for a new first time mother (from the United States living in France).
I began mailing her a new children’s book every month. Many of the titles were the childhood favorites of my own children. Diane would call or write to tell me how she, and later her son, Lubin, happily anticipated the arrival of their monthly book and the joy they received reading it together and how they both looked forward to reading time. She especially enjoyed the comfort reading a book before bedtime brought to her son, Lubin.
Later, her husband, Pascal, a native Parisian, began to read to their son and was learning to read and write in English himself. After a few years, Lubin, who was now reading his gift books by himself, was proudly displaying and sharing his ever-growing first library with friends and family.
I thought if one book could bring so much happiness, joy, and comfort to just one child, how much could it bring to multiple children. It was then I decided to create First Library.
I began researching ways to implement such the program on a larger scale and discovered the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program (imaginationlibrary.com). Ms. Parton created the program in 1995 for Sevier County children in her native Tennessee. Each child, regardless of gender, race or income, registered in the Imagination Library program received a book each month until the age of five, paid for by Ms. Parton’s Dollywood Foundation. For the first three years she only distributed books to these Tennessee children. In 2000, she allowed the replication of the program to other states.
On June 5th of 2007, First Library held its kick-off event at the Library of the Chathams at 214 Main Street in Chatham, NJ. Since then First Library has delivered over 4000 books to almost 300 preschool children, all at no cost or obligation to their families.
In June of 2010, after running the First Library free book program for four years, I felt the need to take an hiatus to redesign and take the program in a different direction. I wanted to recreate the happiness, joy, and comfort Lubin felt reading his first books plus the gratitude his first time mother, Diane, expressed sharing the "First Library program" with her newborn son.
I also wanted to devise a program for first time mothers in need that was tailored to their and their first born child's special circumstances. I decided thereafter to only offer the program to newborn children of first time mothers. By refocusing our efforts on first born children only, First Library can bring the program to new families who are experiencing the love of reading and book ownership for the first time plus encourage a respect and appreciation for literature, family reading time and library patronage.
In November of 2012, First Library began offering the program to newborn children of first time mothers only. This specialized targeted approach will allow to us to refocus our mission and expand to reach more children in surrounding communities in 2012 and beyond.
Catherine Tinger Goldberg
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