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Arizona Parent Kit inspires Lake Havasu City preschooler’s love for reading

Mom reading book with toddler

Taelyn Savage’s love for reading started when she was an infant and would grab at the pages of her favorite book while sitting in her mom’s lap. When she started walking, her parents would often find Taelyn in her room pulling down books from the shelf and leafing through the pages on her own.

By 12 months old, Taelyn had begun to recognize letters and sounds, and could remember parts of her favorite books.

“I would leave off the end of the sentence and she would finish it,” said Taelyn’s mom, Tiffany Savage. “By 2 years old I could stop in the middle of the sentence and she would say the word. By 3 we could put books in front of her that she had never seen before and she knew the words.”

Savage said Taelyn’s first – and favorite book – was the one they took home as part of the Arizona Parent Kit that they received after Taelyn’s birth at Havasu Regional Medical Center.

First Things First provides the Arizona Parent Kit free of charge to parents of all newborns in the state before they leave the hospital or birthing center. In State Fiscal Year 2019, a total of 64,190 parent kits were distributed to families of Arizona newborns.

The Arizona Parent Kit contains an infant board book for families to read with their newborn and resources to help parents support their child in each phase of their early development, from baby to toddler to preschooler.

“My husband is a research-type of guy,” Savage said. “Those resources really helped him wrap his mind around the first five years.”

The kit has evolved since its inception and now includes a mobile-friendly digital version – in English and Spanish – so all the valuable information is available at the tip of a parent’s fingers.

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The benefits, Savage said, have been noticeable. Taelyn’s interest in reading helped to expand her vocabulary. She started talking around 10 months old, and by 13 months she had a vocabulary of around 50 words. Taelyn’s mom said this expanded vocabulary has led to a level of understanding by the toddler that has resulted in less frequent tantrums as she gets older.

“It made all the difference in her level of frustration because she can express herself more clearly,” Savage said. “Things can be explained to her. The biggest benefit is that we can help her understand what’s going on in her life, even at this young age.”

Savage said she and her husband will continue to nurture their daughter’s love of literacy as she grows older. She encouraged other parents of young children to surround their little ones with books, even if they are too young to understand the story.

“Babies need to hold a book, chew on a book, turn the pages, hold it upside down,” Savage said. “Visually, there’s no replacement for a book.”

Tools in the kit:

Connect families to helpful resources through the Arizona Parent Guide, which provides 80 pages of information and resources to help parents care for their child, including tips about child development, health and safety, quality child care and school readiness;

Promote early literacy with a board book and bookmark to encourage parents to begin reading to and with their child from the very beginning;

Support oral health with a dental kit, provided in partnership with Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation, containing tips about caring for a child’s teeth, as well as toothbrushes – one for a child, one for an adult – and fluoride toothpaste; and

Remind parents that expert help is a phone call away with a refrigerator magnet promoting the toll-free Birth to Five Helpline, which provides free advice and answers to the toughest parenting questions from nurses and other child development experts.

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