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County organization visits Oaklawn to give children’s books to new parents

MARSHALL – Babies aren’t known for spending their first few months hitting the books.

However, thanks to a countywide organization’s generosity, newborns at Oaklawn Hospital are getting a boost in their literary skills.

Members of the Calhoun County Family and Community Education Council called on the hospital recently in recognition of its national affiliate’s “Day of the Family,” celebrated May 15. They brought along about 50 children’s books for families who come to Oaklawn’s Birth Center.

“I like this because my children were born here” at Oaklawn, said Janet DeGroot of Olivet, co-chair of the “Books for Newborns” project. “When they were born, they didn’t have books here to pass out to the new moms.”

Countywide, the council has about 46 members who’ve undertaken the project for the past 10 years. It’s part of their effort to encourage parents to read to their children and spend high-quality time with their families, DeGroot said.

The “Day of the Family” is an effort of the National Association for Family and Community Education Literacy Program, and the “Books for Newborns” project is aimed at promoting reading skills while putting books into the hands of families, she said.

DeGroot, who has been involved in the books project for about six years, was joined at Oaklawn by Linda Huckfeldt, also of Olivet.

“Too many families sit around and play with their smartphones. They don’t talk,” said Huckfeldt, who was making her first visit to a hospital under the project’s auspices. “I hope something like this will get them together a little bit more.”

At Oaklawn, DeGroot and Huckfeldt dropped in on Scott Nielsen and Cheryl Taylor of Battle Creek, whose son Brody Nielsen was born May 12 in the Birth Center. There, they presented a children’s book about lambs for the parents to read to Brody as he grows up.

Among books donated to Oaklawn for the project were such titles as “The Giggle Monster,” “Cody Finds Colors,” “Rainy Day Friends,” “Little Boy Blue,” “This Little Piggy,” “Words of Wonder,” “Who’s Laughing?” and many more.

Even more books were donated to other nearby hospitals and physicians’ offices, DeGroot said – all with a budget of just one hundred dollars.

“We went to the dollar stores in Battle Creek, Charlotte and Olivet and sorted through those we thought would be of interest to parents and kids,” DeGroot said, who shares the chairman’s role with Gloria Crandall of Battle Creek, president of the county organization.

Another council member is Ruth Albaugh, chair of the Oaklawn Hospital Auxiliary’s fundraising committee, who helped to coordinate the recent visit to the hospital’s Birth Center.

Funds for the books are raised over the course of the year through other projects, which include the group’s Bingo tent at the Calhoun County Fair.

The council also conducts a variety of other community-oriented projects, including student essay contests, blanket donations for foster children, speaker presentations and fresh water donations in foreign countries.