David Lauderdale

Born to Read program earns White House attention

Dottie Morin of Beaufort has been recognized by the White House as a champion of change.

The change she seeks is for every child born in Beaufort County to be familiar with words and books before entering school.

She's chairman of the board of a nonprofit organization based in Beaufort called Born to Read. It attempts to send every mother home from Beaufort Memorial and Hilton Head hospitals with books and learning tips, along with her newborn baby.

"It's the best way to improve our schools," Morin said.

Morin retired from teaching in 2006, with stops during her 20-year career including Battery Creek High School and Beaufort Academy.

She knew she wanted to continue to promote literacy. An article in The Beaufort Gazette introduced her to Born To Read. She showed up as a volunteer and now chairs the board.

Its 30 trained volunteers go into hospital nurseries Monday through Saturday, year-round. Last year, they visited with 2,200 families, 30 percent of them military families. At least 94 percent of mothers go home with a gift bag of two books, a booklet from the Beaufort County School District, a shirt, a bib and other items to remind parents to read, talk, sing and tell stories to their babies. They send out newsletters with more tips through the child's first 13 months.

Siblings also go home with new books.

And mothers get a little talking-to about the power of reading daily to their children in their primary language to lay the foundation for reading skills. They're told to limit television viewing because bonding time with parents is not something you get from electronics.

Morin received the White House "Champions of Change" honor in September, near the start of school. The White House honors Americans weekly because, "All across the country, ordinary Americans are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world."

Morin said the honor is not for her, but the Born to Read program, its volunteers and its part-time director, Chris Taggart. She said it couldn't happen without the help of the hospitals, or support from foundations, donors and the United Way of the Lowcountry. It partners with the school district, the county library system and Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry.

Morin said the teamwork enables her to say this about Beaufort County: "By reaching one mom, one child at a time, Born to Read contributes to the success of our schools, our community and our country."

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Born to Read

Champions of Change