Retired Teacher Gives Gift of Literacy to Magee Newborns

Jenna Powell and her son, Garrett, who was born today at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

By Nikki Denton

When most people celebrate their birthdays, they expect gifts to be given to them. But for a retired local educator, it’s better to give than to receive.

As a retired Pittsburgh Public Schools reading specialist, Theodora Cotten, Ed.D., knows the importance of literacy and starting early. As a way to celebrate her 80th birthday today, Dr. Cotten, decided to donate books to every baby born today at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. This helps start these new lives on their journeys to become successful readers. 

“I know an adult reading to a baby and a young child promotes the desire to read in the child long before he or she enters a formal classroom,” Dr. Cotten says.

Each baby born Dec. 18 at Magee received a book and a letter to their mothers explaining that they have been given the gift of literacy, a gift that lasts a lifetime. “It’s the gift that opens many possibilities for successful living,” Dr. Cotten says. 

Jenna Powell, and her son, Garrett, received one of Dr. Cotten's gifts. Ms. Powell says the book was a sweet gesture. She believes in the power of reading and literacy. At her baby shower, she had asked that all guests bring a book.

Dr. Cotten’s letter adds that parents can give their baby a great start by simply reading a picture book to him or her for five to 20 minutes daily, beginning from their birth. “One day, the child will read a story to you,” the letter continues. “Your child had been born on my birthday. So I wish your new baby a happy birthday and many happy reading days in the future.”