Story packs launched to give premature babies in Stoke the best start in life

11 Oct 2017
Hannah Morris, Middlesbrough

A new project has been launched to inspire families to read and sing with their premature babies at Royal Stoke University Hospital.

As part of our Stoke Reads campaign which we run in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, special story packs will be gifted to parents whose new-borns are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Each story pack contains:

  • A copy of Guess How Much I Love You, kindly donated by Walker Books
  • Tips on supporting a baby’s literacy development and information about libraries in Stoke-on-Trent
  • A chart for parents to track their baby’s milestones
  • A blog from a new mum Helen, whose baby James was born at 28 weeks
  • A notepad and pen for parents to keep a diary during their stay

 Research shows that talking, singing and reading to premature babies helps the electric pathways in their brain to develop, which supports their speech and language skills in later life. Sharing stories also helps parents to bond with their newborns, particularly if they are unable to hold them.

The story packs will be gifted to families by Stoke-on-Trent library service’s Reading Champions who will visit the ward every month. They’ll talk to parents about the pack, share songs and stories with babies, and suggest more children’s books to for families to enjoy.

By making reading part of their family routine on the ward, it is hoped that parents will to continue to share stories with their children at home. 

Jason Vit, Manager of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Stoke said:

“When a baby is born prematurely, parents often feel helpless and struggle to know what to do to help their little one. Reading a book or singing can have a huge impact on their new-born’s brain development and provide comfort during a difficult time. Babies know their parents voices, so hearing them reading will comfort and soothe them.”

Rosaleen Ciavucco, Neonatal Sister at Royal Stoke University Hospital said:

“Studies show that preterm infants who are not exposed to language while in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have lower language performance at age two.  During a newborn’s time in the NICU, critical brain development is occurring, including the development of the pathways that control language skills. By reading to their babies, parents are not only bonding with them and reducing some of the stress of being in the NICU, but they’re also aiding in their children’s brain development. Parents have really welcomed this initiative and the staff are keen to be involved.”

Councillor Janine Bridges, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for education and economy, said:

“This is a wonderful new campaign for the city to support families and very young babies. We want every child in our city to be given the best possible start in life and working with new born babies can have a hugely positive impact on their development. It is another way that the literacy partnership in our city is supporting families and improving learning opportunities, so that young people can develop life skills to help them succeed in the future.”

Stoke Reads is a campaign from the National Literacy Trust and Stoke-on-Trent City Council to promote reading and raise literacy levels in the city.