Early Learning Coalition

Representatives of PHELC and Medical Center of Trinity pose for a picture with the book “Cuddle,” which will be donated to new mothers.

PASCO – Early literacy is an important tool for raising a successful child in life. After all, words are all around us and the sooner children can begin to read, the greater their educational experience can be.

The Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties Inc. launched a new literacy initiative called Loving Start at the end of September. PHELC Executive Director Steve Knobl and PHELC Early Literacy Specialist Sherri Sabadishin met with Medical Center of Trinity employees to distribute copies of “Cuddle” written by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lsoviskis. The book is a great tool for new mothers looking for support to build language development with their child right from birth.

The nonprofit donated 1,000 copies of “Cuddle” to Medical Center of Trinity in Pasco on Sept. 30 and 500 copies to Bayfront Baby Place in Hernando on Oct. 15. The reading program is supported by the OB and NICU departments.

“Reading is so important,” said Jenn Metz, NICU manager and director of child services for Medical Center of Trinity. “It’s huge for ongoing brain development for baby. The earlier we can start reading, the better and more sustaining it can be for baby.”

In 2018, the Medical Center of Trinity started the Itty Bitty Book Club for mothers in the maternity ward, but with the pandemic had to put the program on hold. In 2020, Metz estimated the hospital had around 1,500 births.

Sabadishin said developing language skills from birth through reading and building a positive relationship between parents and their baby is a magical experience. Additionally, reading builds vocabulary through pictures and words in a young child’s mind. The more books they pick up, the more words they can be exposed to.

“Sitting close, snuggling into one another, and enjoying something that’s on the page it’s something you’ll never forget. It’s some of my best memories with my children,” Sabadishin said.

The Early Learning Coalition has been supporting children from newborn to 5 years of age in Pasco and Hernando with School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten services. The nonprofit offers other programs too, such as Early Head Start and Inclusion Services.