A new chapter for families at Bradford Royal Infirmary

24 Feb 2016

The National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford has teamed up with Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, neonatal charity, Bliss and Boots Opticians in Bradford to hand out the packs at Bradford Royal Infirmary to help increase literacy levels in the area.

The initiative aims to highlight the importance of communicating with babies, as studies show that sharing stories and rhymes with babies from an early age helps families bond. Hearing their parents or siblings telling stories or singing supports a baby’s wellbeing, lets them get to know their voice and stimulates their brain development.

A team of parent volunteers from Bliss assembled the literacy packs with staff volunteers from Boots Opticians in Bradford. Each pack contains a copy of ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney donated by publisher Walker Books, plus a pen and notepad for families to keep a diary of their baby’s development during their stay on the ward. Also included are tips for parents and carers on how to support their child’s literacy development and information on library membership.

The packs will be given out by the Bliss volunteers to parents of babies who are admitted to the neonatal ward. The volunteers will talk to parents about the importance of sharing stories and rhymes with babies and continuing to read together as a family after leaving hospital.

Research by the World Health Organisation found that better literacy leads to healthier children as well as helping them to do better at school. [1] The collaboration with the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford aims to improve children’s health and literacy outcomes.

The literacy packs are being launched in Bradford following the success of a similar initiative run by the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough.  The impact of this work at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough has been revealed through focus groups where parents who received literacy packs said they were previously unaware of the importance of reading to their babies. However, after receiving the literacy packs they have discovered how sharing books is an enjoyable way of connecting with their child and reading has become part of their daily routine at home.

This vital work was showcased in a report published by the National Literacy Trust called “National Literacy Trust Hubs: Understanding the role of literacy in public health."

Imran Hafeez, manager of the National Literary Trust Hub in Bradford said:
“A baby’s stay in a neonatal ward is a very anxious time for families and the simple pleasures of reading and singing rhymes to them can bring some comfort during the long hours spent beside their baby’s incubator. These literacy packs are establishing reading as a fun, shared activity which will continue to help develop a baby’s listening, memory and vocabulary. 

We are delighted to be working with Bradford Royal Infirmary on this pioneering initiative and the fantastic volunteers at Bliss and Boots Opticians in Bradford who are providing essential support. The 500 copies of “Guess How Much I Love You”, kindly given to us by Walker Books, are perfect for helping families bond with their newborns.

The literacy packs are a great example of how the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford works with local public services, businesses and volunteers to increase literacy across the area.”

Chris Day, Consultant Neonatologist at Bradford Royal Infirmary, said:
“The fundamental purpose of this initiative is to humanise the newborn baby unit and empower parents so they feel able to spend quality time with their babies.

Encouraging families to read and share stories from the very beginning contributes to a range of immediate and long-term benefits for both a child’s emotional wellbeing and ability to learn. These literacy packs provide a welcome diversion for families who can gain a feeling of closeness with their babies during this difficult time.”

Sally Allatt, Practice Manager at Boots Opticians, Bradford said:
"I was once a parent of a premature baby when I spent many months in a neonatal  unit. To have been given a literacy pack with advice and information of the importance of reading to your baby, would have been fantastic. Therefore as soon as I knew what work had been done in Middlesbrough, I just needed to be link bringing together the unit with our local National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford. Having the opportunity to support the unit to help parents in my home city was a fantastic opportunity."

Anita Parkin, Director for Public Health at Bradford Council said:
“This is a fantastic piece of work coming from the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford. I hope that it will help shape positive attitudes and behaviour towards literacy at the beginning of a child’s life and also raise the profile of literacy within our services and across the district.”
Megan and Brett at BRI