Experts say reading to children has many developmental benefits. But what about reading to them before they’re born?

A new educational program created by Alignment Bay County encourages pregnant woman to read to their unborn child. After seeing convincing research on the topic, Dr. Frank Merrit and his wife came up with a program to help pregnant women. With 5 thousand dollars from his own foundation, he started “Little Listeners,” a program encouraging women to read to their unborn babies.

“We actually were astonished by the research showing that even kids while they are in the womb could be affected as early as 25 weeks gestation. We’ve found research as early as 22 weeks gestation,” said Dr. Frank Merritt. 

Each month expecting patients at Coastal OB GYN receive books to read to their babies. If they choose to do so, they read to the baby during their third trimester ultrasound and watch the child’s reaction. Dr. Merritt said not only will the baby benefit but the mother too.

“They have lower instances of postpartum stress, postpartum depression, and other things that can affect mothers so the mothers are impacted in a positive way as well,” said Dr. Merritt.

Dr. Merritt said he was inspired by a patient named Natalie Ware who died from cancer.

“It was a wonderful tribute to our daughter,” said Natalie’s mother Susan Bell. 

Ware was a second grade teacher at Tommy Smith Elementary School.

“She believed in reading. She loved it and she would completely love this idea,” said Bell.

Ware’s parents say the program keeps their daughter’s memory alive. 

“It will be something that her son who’s is 8-years-old now who loves to read. She read to him every night even he night before she passed away. It will just keep that in his memory forever,” said Bell.

Any Coastal OB GYN expecting mom can participate. All they have to do is complete three surveys during their pregnancy.