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A “Loving Start” for new moms and newborns

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When Sherri Sabadishin, PHELC Early Literacy Specialist at The Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties, Inc. (PHELC), gave birth to each of her three children, she found that the hospital overseeing her births provided her with everything she needed to bring her precious children into the world, save for one thing. “I had the baby bottles, but not the books,” she said. 

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This is why Sabadishin is thrilled to head the launch of “Loving Start,” a new early literacy initiative operating under PHELC, a 501c3 organization, that kicked off in Hernando County at Bayfront Baby Place in Spring Hill on Oct. 15. PHELC partnered with Free Spirit Publishing to supply the infant board book “Cuddle” by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lsoviskis, an entry in the publisher’s Happy Healthy Baby Series. This series of books support new moms in their journey to build language development and relationships from the time of birth.

The Coalition launched “Loving Start” with a donation of 500 “Cuddle” books (valued at $2,800), personalized with PHELC title pages, to Bayfront Baby Place, which will be distributed to all new moms supported by the women’s services: OB and NICU units. A future donation of books will take place at Trinity Medical Center in Pasco County.

“When you foster literacy skills at a young age,” said Sabadishin. “You give kids a head start on their growth and development.” Early literacy, according to information provided by PHELC, improves language skills and prepares young children for school. It well mirrors the goals of the Early Learning Coalition, which since 2005 has supported high-quality education for children ages 0-5 in Pasco and Hernando Counties with School Readiness and VPK services. “We want these mothers and babies to know we are there for them. The Coalition’s Loving Start program serves to support new mothers in their journey to building language development and positive relationships with their children. This book-sharing experience may very well be their child’s earliest memory of loving to read.”  

Cover of the book “Cuddle”

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, in the information provided by PHELC, verifies the value of early childhood literacy. “When you share books with your very young child you support emerging literacy as you: help your child learn that pictures and words are symbols that can be interpreted; expose your child to new words and thereby increasing their vocabulary,” the info read. And the book “Cuddle,” in Sabadishin’s view, is the ideal book to suit and promote this effort. “The book is about cuddling and kissing, It’s about building that connection,” she said.

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Administrators at Bayfront Health Spring Hill expressed gratitude for the book donation. “Providing access to resources that support healthy babies and families is a priority for us. The Baby Place is excited about a partnership that provides an opportunity for early learning,”  said CJ Hamilton, Chief Administrative Officer at Bayfront Health Spring Hill. 

And Dr. Steve Knobl, PHELC Executive Director, is pleased to be getting more books into more tiny hands. “We are grateful to partner with Bayfront Baby Place who sees the value of prioritizing children’s literacy in Hernando County and together we can advance this early literacy initiative,” he said. “We are excited to be a part of encouraging a parent-child’s bond with their first book, ‘Cuddle’” For more information about how to spread sunshine throughout the community through support of “Loving Start,” contact Sherri Sabadishin, Early Literacy Specialist at 727-233-8291. 

The Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties, Inc. is a 501c3 organization and one of 30 Early Learning Coalitions in Florida. Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program is for all children who are four years old on or before September 1. School Readiness provides subsidized childcare for low-to-moderate-income working families. The nonprofit serves over 12,000 children between infancy and twelve years old, working with more than 300 childcare providers in both counties. 

Excerpt from the book “Cuddle”

And to spread your own positive community news, send your good news to community reporter Megan Hussey at the Hernando Sun, [email protected] Show Us Your Sunshine!

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