By: Michele DiPasquale
To some, a library may be a thing of the past; but in fact, libraries are currently visited much more frequently than one might think. And public libraries can still proclaim that they are not only crucial to the populace for offering the enjoyment of reading for free, but for the very relevant and contemporary services they provide. In fact, a recent survey showed that, since 2016, 53% of Millennials say they used a library at least twice in any given year, and that number is actually higher when comparing it to 45% of Gen Xers and 43% of Baby Boomers who were simultaneously polled. So even in today’s online world, the public library is still absolutely in demand.
There are public libraries for children, adolescents, teens, and adults, but the very first library for your very young child, is, in fact, First Library® of Morristown. At First Library new mothers and parents can borrow books and other materials, make use of reference collections, enjoy computer services, and encourage early literacy and the joy of reading.
“The idea to start First Library® came to me after my friend, Diane, had her first child. I wanted to give my love of reading to her and her newborn, so I sent her some books to read to her baby son, Lubin. Diane later explained that she was having a hard time finding English-language children’s books to read to him and that my books were the perfect gift for a new first-time mother (from the United States living in France). So I began sending her a new children’s book every month – many were childhood favorites of my own children. Diane would call or write to say how she, and later her son, happily anticipated the arrival of their monthly book and the joy they received reading it together, and how they both looked forward to reading time,” shared Catherine Tinger Goldberg, founder and director of First Library®.
She felt that if a book could bring so much happiness, joy, and comfort to just one child, how much could it bring to multiple children? It was then that she decided to create First Library®. By taking a cue from Dolly Parton and her Imagination Library program, Ms. Tinger Goldberg followed Ms. Parton’s idea.
The Imagination Library was created in 1995 for in-need children in Ms. Parton’s native Tennessee. The purpose was and is for each child, regardless of gender, race, or income, to register at the Imagination Library program and receive a free book each month until the age of five, paid for by Ms. Parton’s Dollywood Foundation®. While it began for children in need in Tennessee, Ms. Parton, by the year 2000, allowed and promoted the replication of the program to other states.
In order to promote local library patronage, First Library® became more than a free monthly book program. Ms. Tinger Goldberg devised a curriculum for first-time mothers in need that was tailored to their and their firstborn child’s special circumstances. The curriculum would give first-time parents in need the First Library® book program (or other books) and gently-used clothing and educational toys during their child’s first three years of life, free of charge, by requiring parents to read to their child daily and submit a reading log each month.
First Library® was developed for first-time mothers and their child’s individual needs and wants. First Library offers the newborn children of first-time mothers, regardless of gender, race, or income, up to 60 free, brand new, age-appropriate books, until the child is the age of five, at no cost or financial obligation to their families. Books are mailed monthly to the child’s home.
At First Library there’s also a story hour, craft time, educational presentations, summer reading programs, and family-oriented events are held frequently.
The First Library® program offers first-time mothers, the majority in need, additional free books during their child’s first three years of life through various free reading-related activities (beyond the First Library’s program daily reading and monthly library visits) to shop quarterly for free gifts at the online book store, More First Library® Shop.
“All we ask is that parents read to their child daily and maintain regular library patronage,” Ms. Tinger Goldberg explained.
“Essentially we are a free book program but sometimes more than a book a month is necessary to bring the importance of regular reading and books into a home. For children born under the poverty level there are new educational toys and clothing available for the parents,” Ms. Tinger Goldberg said.
“I feel it is so important for children to be read to early and consistently. Children should have a firm foundation for a lifetime love of reading, respect for literature, and an appreciation for all things the library has to offer. I hope I am achieving these goals with First Library®,” Ms. Tinger Goldberg explained.
Because First Library is in five counties and growing throughout the State of New Jersey, aside from receptions at their offices, they rely on individual community members and Community Actions teams to spread the word about First Library’s mission and fundraising efforts. They do accept monetary donations on behalf of the donor’s community through Classy.org. First Library is also an approved charity of the AmazonSmile program.
“What parents and other community members are starting to realize is that if we help all children, whether they are less fortunate or not, learn to read early and on a consistent basis, we are helping everyone in their class, school, and community,” she shared.
First Library is available in Livingston, Carteret, Edison, North Brunswick, Port Reading, Sewaren, Perrineville, Cedar Knolls, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Green Village,
Morristown, New Vernon, Whippany, Somerset, and Basking Ridge.