News & Stories

Story Storks Deliver Gift of Reading

Cooper employee Robyn Rowe with her husband, Greg Gillens and their baby, Alexis.

While pursuing their master’s degrees in Reading Education from Rowan University, Adrienne Evans and Maureen Hicks completed their teaching clinical in Camden. There, they discovered the need to create an early literacy program within the community. The Haddon Heights residents wanted to teach parents of newborns directly, so they created Story Storks and turned to Cooper University Hospital to partner with them.

Their nonprofit organization, established in 2012, focuses on creating future readers at birth by providing parents of newborns with the strategies and books needed to promote infant literacy development. Since its inception, Story Storks has expanded its offerings from Cooper’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the hospital’s Mother Infant Unit.

“The staff at Cooper University Hospital has been extremely supportive and the response from the families has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Maureen Hicks, a retired teacher, who serves as the organization’s president. “A Story Storks representative is at the hospital every day and every volunteer has found the experience to be very fulfilling.”

Last year, Story Storks representatives educated more than 1,000 mothers of new babies about the importance of reading to their babies beginning at birth, and they expect to see that number increase to 3,000 in 2013. The organization donates books personalized with the baby’s footprints and shares educational brochures with reading strategies and tips to help new parents establish a reading routine. These books become a family keepsake and encourage reading.

“They are able to see what happens when they read to a baby,” Adrienne Evans, vice president, explained. “It was pretty eye opening for the nurses and volunteers.”

In addition to promoting early literacy, Story Storks representatives serve an additional purpose — providing comfort to families of babies born with serious conditions.

“For babies in the NICU, with the parent’s permission, we read to their babies,” Barbara Funkhouser, the organization’s secretary and treasurer said. “To me, it’s been so fulfilling to see these babies grow and development. I feel like I am part of an amazing process.”

To learn more about Story Storks, visit its website.