Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente officially kicked off the Book for Babies program at Mohawk Valley Health System’s Faxton Campus today.

The initiative will provide a free book to every newborn in the county through the Utica and Jervis Public Libraries and the Mid York Library System.

Each Oneida County newborn will receive a tote bag at the hospital of their birth containing the New York Times best-selling book “On the Night You were Born” by Nancy Tillman, along with a growth chart, library information and educational materials on literacy and healthy eating habits.

Books for Babies was made possible by gaming revenue collected as part of the Oneida Nation settlement agreement.

$25,000 has been allotted for the program.

Picente says it's designed to engage parents in the importance of reading books at an early age.

“Studies show that reading to babies and toddlers helps them learn to speak and build vocabulary, while also creating a stronger bond with their caregivers,” Picente said. “This program will give the youth of our county a leg up in building a strong foundation in literacy.”