Friends of Fletcher Free Library: Early Childhood Literacy and Prenatal Nutrition Counseling

2023 Update:

With funds from the City Market Co-op’s Seedling grant, Fletcher Free Library and Champlain Valley Head Start with the support of Larner College of Medicine medical students were able to organize a literacy evening for New American families in Burlington.

The Fletcher Free Library is a community library located in the heart of Burlington’s downtown, home to a wide collection of books for all ages. They have a wonderful children’s section with toys, arts and crafts, computers and books showcasing a diverse cast of characters.
Champlain Valley Head Start is a local organization non-profit human services organization that provides comprehensive services for pregnant women, children from birth to age five and their families.

Two people in a library speaking to families seated on the floor.

In a collaborative effort, medical students from the Larner College of Medicine teamed up with these two organizations with the goal of inspiring early childhood literacy and education about healthy nutritional choices.

With the funding we received from the Seedling Grant, we were able to put together 20 educational boxes for families which included an alphabet play mat, a reusable utensil kit, a soft book, sight word cards, a giftcard to City Market, as well as multiple educational resources on childhood development, nutritional guidelines, mental health resources during and after pregnancy and breastfeeding. We hosted an event this fall at the Fletcher Free Library where local physicians and psychologists attended to speak with families about healthcare in an informal setting. Fletcher Free librarian Megan Butterfield did a read aloud for the children while local healthcare providers circulated around the event answering questions. We served dinner and allowed for the families and children to register for library cards and sign up for Head Start services. Each family received a Literacy Box to take home with them after the event!

The boxes that were left over were distributed at Dr. Andrea Green’s clinic to local families who may benefit from the resources inside.
Through this wonderful event, we were able to connect New American families with local healthcare providers. This event sparked conversation and further collaboration to organize future vision and hearing screenings at Champlain Valley Head Start. Thank you to the City Market Co-op for being a catalyst in creating this community event and events to come! We could not have provided these educational and financial resources for families without this grant. We look forward to continuing with the momentum we have gained this year and hosting future events!

Families sharing a meal together
Two women smile at the camera with a toddler in between them!














2022 Grant Amount: $2,500

The goal of this project is to fill the early childhood literacy and pre-/post-natal nutrition gap for low income and New American families to ensure an even start for all families in the Burlington community. Working closely with Champlain Valley Head Start and Fletcher Free Library as the hub for these efforts, we aim to give Head Start Families an early childhood literacy and nutrition-focused box, which will support growth from age 0 to 3. Our intervention builds on the current families serviced by Champlain Valley Head Start.

As current medical students at the UVM Medical School, we came to understand that there is a literacy and nutrition resource gap in the prenatal to 6 months of life age group from speaking to local healthcare providers. Local organizations like Head Start and Fletcher Free Library shared with us the value of an integrated approach to care. Hosting events that address multiple needs can amplify the impact of a project, starting with a series of initiatives we are launching this summer. We understand that the social determinants of health greatly shape development outcomes, especially in vulnerable populations. This project is aimed at tackling two important determinants of health - nutrition and literacy. Our work is grounded in the intention to increase the number of words heard by babies which have been proven to be positive for brain development, language, and speech, in addition to providing the financial resources to buy healthy food necessary for growth.

Each family will receive a box with the following items:

  1. Two Children's Books: We hope to pre-identify the families who will be receiving these baskets to make sure that the books they receive are written in a language that they can understand.
  2. One $100 Gift Card to City Market: We hope that this will cover a grocery trip for a family.
  3. One Healthy Recipe Cookbook: By pre-identifying the families, we hope to supply them each with a culturally relevant cookbook with budget-friendly and easy recipes.
  4. Informational Flyers: We will be working with physicians and nutritionists at the medical center to curate informational flyers regarding nutrition and literacy to include in the boxes.
  5. Age Appropriate Utensils: Some families may not have access to age-appropriate utensils such as sippy cups, bibs, forks and spoons. We would like to provide these families with these tools as they promote independence and help children with their developmental milestones.
  6. Alphabet Blanket: This blanket can be used for changing, napping and playtime as well as expose children to shapes and letters.
  7. Library Card to Fletcher Free Library: This free library card will help build a sustained relationship between families and the library and increase access to literacy resources.

The prenatal period is a historically under-served time period in pregnancy in terms of nutrition and literacy in these families. We have done a literature review as well as spoken to many local pediatricians,obstetricians, and educators to determine the impact value of this project. These professionals have all agreed that this particular population (low-income and New American families) can benefit the most from early intervention. As mentioned, our project is multifaceted - we are hosting events this summer centered around literacy and nutrition at the Fletcher Free Library. We are hoping that this grant can cover the nutritional aspect of our project. Ultimately, we are aiming to tackle multiple social determinants of health (literacy, nutrition, and social connectedness) through a series of targeted interventions.