In celebration of his birthday Wednesday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced an initiative to give a book to all babies born in Duval County.
At Baptist Hospital downtown, Curry unveiled “What I Can Be From A-Z,” a 40-page book filled with colorful children’s artwork depicting careers and professions that correspond to each letter of the alphabet.
The early-learning and school-readiness initiative began out of Duval County Public Schools with support from the Chartrand Family Fund at the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.
Curry says he hopes parents will read the book out loud to their new family member.
“From pregnancy through 3 years, you’re building that child’s brain,” Curry said. “Certainly if you don’t do everything you’re supposed to do, that kid still has a chance. But we ought to make sure all mothers and fathers in this city know how important those first thousand days are.”
Copies of the book will be distributed to all mothers who deliver at Baptist, Memorial, UF Health, and St. Vincent’s over the next year.
At Curry’s announcement Wednesday, mother Cheyenne Jordan said reading and talking to her premature newborn is playing a huge role in his development.
“He can’t really communicate with us, but he knows that mom and dad are here when we talk to him because he know’s our voices from when he was in the womb,” she said. “Reading and talking is very important. It’s how we connect with him.”
Parents will also be given a poem to read aloud to their newborns, a happy birthday card from the mayor, and a bookmark encouraging them to register their children for a library card.
City data show 12,000 to 14,000 babies are born in Jacksonville every year.