What is BabyRead®?

BabyRead is an early literacy outreach program in Oconee County, S.C.   We are volunteers who assist families provide  the best start for their children.  BabyRead volunteers have diverse backgrounds. We want to share our love of reading

and children with participating families. Here's an introduction to BabyRead video from our founder, Dr. Caren Von Hippel:


BabyRead volunteers meet with families and their babies to read, talk, and sing, using good practices. We focus on families with babies birth to 18 months of age because research shows that a child’s intelligence grows more during that time than during 18 months to 18 years.


BabyRead® Advisory Board

Emily Bartels is a program specialist with Reach Out and Read (ROR)- Carolinas which she has been with for over 12 years.  Emily works with over 40 pediatricians’ practices in the upstate of South Carolina on the ROR intervention of early literacy by distributing books to children five years and under at each well-visit and coaching moms/caregivers.  She also serves on the Kindergarten School Collective Action Network for Spartanburg County.  Emily got her B.S. in business from the College of Charleston.


Ann Douglas recently retired as the Director of Early Learning for the school district of Oconee County, overseeing all preschool intervention and 4K programs within the school district.  She has a B.S. from Clemson University in Early Childhood Education and M. Ed. in Elementary Education, with additional certifications in Special Education/Learning Disabilities and Elementary Administration and Supervision.

Marie Dunnam retired as Executive Director of Oconee County First Steps in 2018 after 15 years of service.  The organization is an early education initiative to prepare children to arrive at first grade healthy and ready to learn. Marie has a B.A. from Louisiana State University, and a Master of  Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of South Carolina.


Caren von Hippel has an MA and Ph.D. in language and cognitive development in young children from the University of Michigan.  She spent 5 years working for Project Head Start and on other projects funded by the Office of Child Development in Washington D. C.   She then spent 30 years in business marketing.  She also taught business marketing for 6 years to executives in the USA and internationally in a six week management program at the University of New Hampshire Business School.  She has done all aspects of business marketing.  Caren is the Director of BabyRead.


Ellen Sanford is the Teacher Leader of Reading Recovery for the Oconee County Schools, teaches reading recovery and early  literacy classes as an adjunct professor for Clemson university, and is a kindergarten teacher in Seneca.  Ellen has an undergraduate degree from Georgia College and an M.A. degree from Mary Grove plus 30 hours in Early Literacy from Clemson University.

Beatriz Gil Stewart is a physician with over 20 years experience. She currently works at Oconee Pediatrics where she promotes reading through the Reach Out and Read program. Beatriz has been a volunteer for baby read for the past two years promoting reading readiness with Spanish speaking children. She has three adult children with whom she also enjoyed reading to from birth.

Bill Walker, a businessman, has a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He worked for 38 years for many of the major computer companies.  He developed curriculum and managed training departments with annual budgets over one million dollars, whose budgets he forecast and managed. He is Treasurer for BabyRead.

Anna Webb attended elementary school in Seneca, South Carolina and graduated from nearby Blue Ridge High School.  Anna is the mother of three children, one of whom is a teacher.  For the last four years, she and the grandmother have been caretakers for her granddaughter’s only child, Jaxon.  Jaxon has been in Early Head Start since he was a baby.  Anna and Jaxon joined BabyRead in March 2017 and have participated ever since. 


Kathy Whitmire, former Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for Oconee County Schools, and former Principal of James M. Brown and Orchard Park Elementary Schools in Oconee County, is an expert in the brain development of babies and young children.  Kathy has a B.S. from the University of Georgia and attended Oxford College of Emory University.   She has an Administrative and Supervision certification from Clemson and did postgraduate work in Mind, Brain, and Teaching at John Hopkins University. She currently runs the Center 4 ADHD.