RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. — It is so important to read to your baby and it's never too early to start. Reading to your baby promotes brain and language development and a recent study showed babies in the NICU hear far fewer words than babies who are born full term.

That's why the local non-profit Books For Newborns is delivering bags full of books to moms to encourage them to read to their babies as much as possible. The program is a partnership at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital.

Occupational therapist Susan Stuppy said she sees the babies react when she reads to them.

“I had been talking to them. However, when I started to read and had that rhythmical kind of voice, he definitely started to open the eyes and look towards me, and so now I’m encouraging all the parents to be doing that every day with their child."

Mom Rikki Boyd loves the program and was so happy to have books in the NICU to read to her son Luka.

"It’s pretty cool because I've got two books already and I read him one and they're really nice books," she said.

Books for Newborns has distributed 4,000 books just to St. Mary’s since 2017. The program has distributed more than 20,000 books in total to hospitals and agencies throughout the St. Louis region since 2017.

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