Since 2014, parents on the neonatal ward at James Cook University Hospital have received copies of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney to read to their premature babies, thanks to support from Walker Books.
In the early stages of the work it was clear that parents were not always comfortable about acting on the guidance they had been given through the welcome packs to talk more with their babies or to read or sing to their babies. The parents on the neo-natal unit had great respect for the specialist health care their babies were receiving on the unit and, whilst they were keen to get involved, they were also cautious about doing the right thing. Some of the parents and grandparents who were visiting their babies were intuitively finding ways to talk to their babies: ‘Well no one told me whether I could touch her or talk to her but then I thought this is my baby and I am going to tell her what it’s like here. So I sat by her side and talked about the room, the lights, how hot it was and how beautiful she was.’
A parent posted on Facebook her surprise when she came to the neonatal unit for the second time with her second baby: ‘Neonatal are now encouraging parents to read to their babies to help bonding and for babies to learn to recognize voices. So it’s story time now for Mummy and Matilda!’
The Middlesbrough Hub initiative, which has resulted in books becoming an important part of daily life on the ward, has been replicated on other neonatal wards, including Stoke-on-Trent and Bradford. Staff from Scarborough visited James Cook University Hospital in 2019 and were due to launch the initiative there in Autumn 2019.
Moving forward in 2021, Hungry Little Minds is partnering the project and providing the purple bags in which information about reading to babies, HLM, the Council’s School Readiness offer and an additional book, alongside Guess How Much I Love You. #BoroReads is incredibly grateful for the ongoing support from Walker Books.
Read about Helen’s experience