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Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) joined D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Public Library executive director Richard Reyes-Gavilan Feb. 4 to announce the official launch of the city’s “Books From Birth” early childhood literacy program.

The program was unveiled at the Children’s National Medical Center in Northeast D.C. “Books from Birth” is designed to foster early language skills and a love for literacy that follows children into adulthood. Calling books the direct building blocks for learning, Allen, who spearheaded the bill for the program, more than a year ago, said the District is trying to close the shortcomings of literacy among school age children.

“This marks an important step forward for early childhood literacy in the District,” Allen said.  “Our support for ‘Books from Birth’ shows we are serious about confronting the District’s literacy and achievement gaps at their starting point, well before those gaps show up in the classroom.”

The Books from Birth program will mail a book to each child in the District every month from birth through age five, while also working to connect families with the full range of D.C. Public Library resources and educational information, including adult literacy assistance and the library’s Sing, Talk, & Read early literacy program.

Two parents on hand for the kickoff, Aisha Melvin and Serita Govan were excited to find the city taking an active role in the literacy of its youngest residents.  For Melvin, who works two full-time jobs, finding time to go to the library with twin toddlers to pick up books is near to impossible, she said. “My husband works nights and weekends and even though the children love books, we are often too exhausted to make reading all that it should be,” Melvin told the AFRO. “Having the books come directly to the house was a stroke of genius because this one small gesture will ensure they have what they need.”

Mayor Bowser said the initiative helps to support her “Pathways to the Middle Class” agenda by encouraging early literacy and engagement. “Parents that use books and who sing, talk and read with infants play a crucial role in giving their children a strong education foundation,” she said at the event. “I encourage parents and caregivers to sign their children up for the ‘Books from Birth’ program and jumpstart the development process for their children.”

Books from Birth” works with famed country singer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to close achievement gaps caused poor literacy. “So many of the successful people in the world talk about the one book that changed their lives, gave them perspective, or encouraged them to do better,” Govan told the AFRO. “If you can imagine how powerful the written word is and life-altering it can be, not having access to books is like cutting off access to the world from your children.”

Families may sign up online by visiting dclibrary.org/booksfrombirth