It takes a village

Williston schools, library partner for newborn literacy program

Nine-year-old Alex Ruwet (left) waits patiently as Olivia Loisel (right), an assistant at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, stamps a due date on his book. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Hello room. Hello moon. Hello cow jumping over the moon.

As part of its Early Literacy Initiative, the Williston School District has partnered with the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library for a “Newborn Outreach” program that will welcome children into the world with a free board book copy of Margaret Wise Brown’s bedtime classic “Goodnight Moon.”

The complimentary children’s book is part of a welcome package that will be mailed to Williston and St. George parents of newborns. The package also includes a welcome letter from the school district with parenting tips, a list of suggested reading materials and a welcome brochure from the library.

Williston District Principal Walter Nardelli said the initiative aligns with the school district’s focus on early intervention to ensure that future students have “rich educational experiences before entering public school.”

“This is about language development. And language development in early years is key to a student being successful at school,” Nardelli said. “We wanted to make sure that we’re reaching out, and that this is a community-based kind of thing coming from the school and the library, putting as much information in young parents’ hands as we possibly can.”

Nardelli, who is a member of the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club, said the “Goodnight Moon” board books were funded by a donation from the Rotary Club.

“They loved the idea, because they also think that it builds a sense of community—that these are our children and that we all should have a responsibility, and so they funded all the books,” Nardelli said.

Youth Services Librarian Jill Coffrin, who noted that the Newborn Outreach program will complement the library’s biannual early literacy workshop for parents, gave credit to the school district for the project’s genesis.

“It was an idea that came about through the school,” Coffrin said. “We decided that this would be a great community project.”

Coffrin added that parents of newborns who sign up for a library card will receive a free children’s book of their choice.

“It’s a really great way to get a feel for the community,” Coffrin suggested. “Start at the library.”

Kate Ruwet, who until recently served as a community liaison between Williston schools and the nonprofit children’s advocacy group Building Bright Futures, explained that birth data is provided to BBF from the Vermont Department of Health.

According to WSD Bookkeeper Peggy Stowe, the first round of welcome packets is ready to be mailed as soon as she receives the new birth data.

“We are all ready,” Stowe said. “We just need the names and addresses.”