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Never too young for a library card

Jayden Cook is Jackson County's newest book lover.

At just 26 days old, Jayden has already received his first library card — making him the youngest cardholder in the county — and he's quickly becoming a regular at the Ashland Public Library.

"We haven't checked out a book yet, but we've come to read," said Juliana Neufeld, Jayden's mom.

Neufeld said she used to come to the library on occasion, but has decided to start coming more regularly since Jayden was born.

"We came in every once in a while, but once we had Jayden we decided to come in every day," Neufeld said.

The family lives very close to the Ashland library, Neufeld said.

Neufeld and Jesse Cook — her fiancé and Jayden's father — stopped by the library Monday afternoon with their son to meet with library staff.

"I think this is fabulous," said Carrie Prechtel, community outreach specialist for Jackson County Library Services. "They obviously recognize the importance of a child reading so early."

Prechtel said the couple is excited to start bringing Jayden to Babies in the Library storytime, which happens weekly at JCLS libraries across the Rogue Valley.

Each session focuses on early literacy skills for babies under 12 months of age, including rhyming, repetition and oral language.

"They learn the importance of reading, and it's a bonding time," said Prechtel. "They are able to spend quality time together and introduce the concept of a book to a child. They start grasping more vocabulary, and that's huge."

Pretchel said the Ashland library was proud to issue Jayden's library card to him on New Year's Eve, when he was just 12 days old.

She said the family was enticed to come into the library and get the card because of a reading bag that is given to all new parents when children are born at the Ashland Community Hospital.

Flipping through the books Monday, Ashland children's librarian Margie Cicerrella said that giving the books to new parents will help encourage reading at a young age.

Cicerrella pioneered the baby book bag program and Babies in the Library storytime.

One book given in the bag included pictures of parents reading to small children, another was a peek-a-boo book with animals and a third book had a baby's face on each page and included phrases in foreign languages.

"Babies love to look at the human face," Cicerrella said.

Cook, Jayden's dad, said he thinks giving Jayden a library card is a good way to get his education started early.

"It's never too young to start your education," said Cook, 26. "We figured, why not start early? The sooner you start reading to them, the more educated they're going to be down the road."

As babies in Jackson County grow older, JCLS offers programs for "wobblers" (12-36 months), toddlers (24-36 months) and pre-kindergarten storytime.

Throughout the county there are 29 storytimes each week. About 24,000 children came to local libraries last year, Prechtel said.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.

Jayden Cook may be less than a month old, but he is already a regular at the Ashland library and is the library system's youngest library cardholder. - Julia Moore