Book reading programme launched for intensive care babies

Scotland’s first literacy programme for babies in intensive care has been launched at the Royal Hospital for Children by two special helpers - twins Alba and Munro McCulloch.

Staff at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have been working in partnership with Scottish Book Trust to develop its Bookbug Programme for NICU patients.

After hearing about a similar programme in England, our staff researched the benefits and how it could greatly enhance family experiences in the often stressful NICU environment.

Benefits of the programme include:

  • Promotion of bonding and attachment between family members and babies
  • All family members, especially siblings, can participate at the bedside
  • The positive sound of a voice reading to a baby is calming – especially for those who may be on a ventilator
  • Studies show pre-term babies meet their language developmental milestones on time when they have been read to as a baby.
  • It promotes brain development
  • Parents who read to their babies are found to continue as the child gets older helping to improve literacy skills

Bookbug is a well established Scottish Government funded initiative working to improve literacy and support bonding and attachment, encourage families to read, talk, sing and cuddle with their children from birth.

The gift bags contain books accompanied by literature for parents on the importance of reading and singing to babies.

Director of Women & Children's Services, Kevin Hill, said: “Bookbug will be a wonderful asset to the Royal Hospital for Children and our families are very excited about it.

“Babies in Scotland receive a Bookbug bag from their health visitor around the age of three to five weeks. However, up until now families in NICU have unfortunately often been missing out.

“Working with Bookbug we’re creating a bespoke programme for NICU gifting Bookbug bags to parents with the existing contents but with additional information about the benefit of reading in NICU.

“We’re adding rhymes, songs, story books, developmental books and links to online resources. We also have a library service with books being regularly delivered to the unit so families can choose new stories.”

Catriona Wallace, Head of Early Years at Scottish Book Trust, said: “Reading, talking and singing to babies makes a huge difference to their development and we're delighted be part of this exciting new work with the neonatal unit at the Royal Hospital for Children.

“The enthusiasm from staff, parents and volunteers has been outstanding and we’re keen to learn from this project as it develops.

“We hope that families will enjoy sharing stories from their Bookbug Baby bags not just in the unit but also long after they have gone home together.”

Families on the unit were joined at the launch by a number of graduate families who had worked with staff to produce information leaflets. They were joined by our staff and Bookbug staff to share a celebration cake and refreshments before being invited to join parent Bookbug information sessions.