New parents in Prince George can expect to receive a special gift at the hospital for at least the next three years.
After a lack of resources temporarily put the Books 4 Babies program on hold earlier this year, the Prince George Public Library has now lined up funding to keep it running through 2014.
Each of the approximately 1,000 bags to be handed out each year will include two storybooks, library information and child care resources -- including a manual designed for dads. Music CDs have also been ordered and will be included in future bags soon.
Library public service manager Marc Saunders said giving children access to books at a young age helps with their early learning success. The program gives the bags out to all parents, regardless of economic means.
"You're making sure that absolutely everybody has access to reading material for babies," he said. "You're not making any assumptions about whether people are going to be promoting literacy or not, you're just giving them materials."
By lining up enough money to run the program through 2014, Saunders said the library can avoid donor fatigue and take advantage of efficiencies by buying supplies in bulk.
A funding gap prevented the program from having bags prepared for parents and newborns during the last six months. Saunders said similar breaks have occurred in the past when funding temporarily dried up, but this was the longest ever dry spell.
The library will be holding a launch on Sept. 12 to officially unveil the new bags and is encouraging any parents who were missed in the last few months to come and pick up their packages.
The program has been around for years and even received funding from the provincial government from 2006-09, which coincided with local MLA Shirley Bond's time as education minister. When the province clawed back the money, Saunders said the library had to reach out to the community to find support. He said it took a lot of persistence to line everything up, but is thankful for the partners who have stepped forward.
Northern Health is a major partner in the program, helping to fund a second book in each bag and distributing the bags to parents at the hospital. Included this year is a "24 hour crib-side assistance manual" aimed at helping new dads adjust to fatherhood.
"It's actually a really cool resource that was developed by the Peel Health Authority in Ontario," Northern Health men's health co-ordinator Brandon Grant said. "It's about getting information to new dads about what to expect with a newborn and it's written like a car maintenance manual."
Other funding partners include Integris Credit Union, the North Central Library Federation, Success by 6, Raise a Reader and the Nechako Rotary Club.
Saunders said proof the program is having an impact can be seen when children come with their parents to access the library.
"On a fairly regular basis we see little children coming into the library and they have their Books 4 Babies bag from when they were a baby and they're walking around as a toddler," he said. "It's really exciting to see the material is being used on a regular basis."