Books for Babies

Written by: 
Jennifer Pache
Photography by: 
Ahna Hubnik

Jasmine Africawala ('10 M.S.) and Kate Park ('02) (Photo by Ahna Hubnik)Storytime has fascinated kids for ages. Reading to children stimulates their minds, teaches them new vocabulary while reinforcing the words they've already learned and can help them fall asleep. Yet some mothers don't realize how helpful reading can be to child development and aren't reading to their children. Kate Park ('02), executive director of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library, and Jasmine Africawala ('10 M.S.), adult services administrator for the Dallas Public Library, are working to change that.

When a local children's book author approached Park and Africawala, they saw an opportunity to promote literacy and knowledge of the library. Together they customized a bilingual children's book to include a message encouraging mothers to read to their children and another to encourage them to come to the Dallas Public Library and check out books to continue reading to their child. The books are given out to every mother who gives birth in Parkland Hospital.

At UNT, Park majored in English and Africawala in library science, and both were heavily influenced by UNT professors and the campus culture.

Park credits mentors in the English department, Thomas Preston and Sandra Spencer, for their support.

"They helped me decide to stay on the path of an English major and to get my master's abroad," she says.

Africawala says an information access and retrieval institute taught by Elizabeth Figa in library and information sciences helped lead her to promote literacy.

"She was such an upbeat and passionate librarian that she really inspired me to try to inspire others," says Africawala.

Not only are Park and Africawala supporting literacy, but they also are promoting the knowledge of various languages. The book also incorporates ethnic diversity with illustrations of parents, grandparents and children from a variety of cultures and ethnicities.

The project has received many positive responses from mothers who were given copies of the book.

"One shared that she was already reading to her newborn at the hospital -- something she has never done with her other three children," says Park. "UNT values creativity, collaboration and a strong work ethic. This project reflects all of these important characteristics."