Feb. 19-- ELGIN, Ill.-Installing infant car seats can be confusing, frustrating and comical for new parents, but even after the seat is finally in place, it may not be used or installed correctly, said a nationally certified car safety expert on hand at Gail Borden Public Library's BabyFest recently.
"Ninety-five percent of car seats are incorrectly installed," said Stephanie Hopkins, a child passenger safety technician certified through Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit that seeks to prevent injuries in children.
New parents try to do the right thing, but "car manufacturers and car seats do not play well together," Hopkins said. She runs her own child-safety consulting business, Red Barn Basics, based in Bartlett. Parents can learn about car seats in their own home, she said, adding that she also teaches CPR classes.
Hopkins took part in an expo wrapping up Gail Borden's weeklong BabyFest. Saturday's expo featured businesses like Green Lil Buns, specializing in cloth diapers, and Mommy 3D4D Scans, offering ultrasound imaging; nonprofits like the United Way and Elgin Partnership for Early Learning; health and wellness consultants including mom and baby yoga; doulas and early literacy experts.
Red Barn Basics had a display showing parents what is not allowed on or in car seats. Hopkins says clients are always surprised to learn that car seat accessories like head supports create gaps between the baby and the seat's harness, making it unsafe. Hanging toys, even cute ones, are not a good idea either because they could become a projectile that hurts the baby during a car accident, she said.
"Anything not in the box, you can't use," Hopkins said.
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BabyFest also featured nonprofits programs aimed at building early literacy skills.
United Way of Elgin's Elissa Kojzarek, director of marketing, helped parents sign up for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. The program provides free books every month for children from birth to age 5, she said. The first book, "The Little Engine That Could," is sent to children of all ages because it is Parton's favorite book, Kojzarek said.
There are two qualifications: families must live in the service area-Elgin, South Elgin, Hampshire, Burlington or Pingree Grove-and children must be younger than 5, Kojzarek said. United Way of Elgin is the only agency in northern Illinois to partner with Parton's Imagination Library, she said.
Funding is provided locally through grants, including Hoffer Foundation, the Rotary Club of Elgin, WS Hampshire, W.R. Meadows, EFS Foundation and the Andrew and Alice Fischer Charitable Trust, Kojzarek said.
Since the program started in 2009, 300,000 books have been distributed to 10,700 children, she said. Studies have found when parents read aloud to infants, it helps build language and literacy skills, Kojzarek said.
Reading to children is the best thing parents can do for their child's success, Kojzarek said.
United Way of Elgin is working with Elgin Partnership for Early Learning for a new program to provide books from the Imagination Library at local laundromats, Kojzarek said.
Language in the Laundromat is kicking off in April at JetXpress Laundry, said Amber Peters, collaboration director of Elgin Partnership for Early Learning. The Dundee Avenue laundromat will have books, ideas for early learning activities and storytimes for children while parents are there to do laundry, Peters said.
Families spend an average of two and a half hours a week at the laundromat, time that can be spent developing learning skills, she said.
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