According to a story published by the Stoke Sentinel, parents of premature babies will be offered packages including books, charts for tracking milestones, diary notepads and pens, and more.
The programme is a project of the Stoke-on-Trent City Council's library service. In addition to the packets, the service will also be sending volunteers to the hospital every month to involve families with story time and sing-alongs. Parents of premature babies will also be given access to a blog uniquely tailored to parents of young babies.
One of the stated goals of the programme is to help develop a love of reading in both parents and children alike. Being encouraged to read to a premature baby also encourages parents to have some sort of contact with their children even if they are unable to hold and cuddle with them. Still, the project goes even further than that.
According to National Literary Trust manager Jason Vit, reading and singing to infants has a very definite impact on brain development. Furthermore, babies already know their parents' voices when they are born, so hearing them read and sing can provide some measure of comfort during an otherwise uncomfortable hospital stay.
Vit's comments are backed up by scientific research. Studies have shown that "talking, singing, and reading to premature babies helps the electric pathways in the brain to develop," according to the Stoke Sentinel. That same early-stage brain development goes on to support speech and language skills as a baby grows.
Programme officials are very aware of the fact that parents of premature babies find the NICU a very stressful environment from time to time. Not only do they have to deal with the emotional challenges of witnessing what their own babies are going through, but they also see so many of the families around them facing the same challenges. Some days can be overwhelming in terms of stress levels. Reading to baby can help.
Another aspect of the Royal Stoke University Hospital reading programme is its ability to reduce stress levels. Parents can sit down, relax a bit, and spend time bonding with their children over a story just long enough to forget all the negatives for a little while. Bringing multiple families together for group stories and sing-alongs can achieve the same stress-relieving goals but on a larger scale.
It is wonderful to be able to tell parents of premature babies about things like the Stoke reading programme. Being the parent of a premature baby is no easy thing, but thankfully there are a tremendous number of resources available to parents throughout the UK. The Stoke reading programme is but one.
Parents are encouraged to reach out to hospital staff within a few hours of giving birth to a premature baby. Staff and social workers will do everything they can to assist parents throughout the child's entire hospital stay, and even beyond. And once baby is taken home, there are numerous charities and support group organisations offering parents a helping hand in everything from purchasing clothing to learning how to care for baby at home.
Rooms in the NICU at Royal Stoke University Hospital will soon be alive with the sounds of reading and singing. Thanks to a great city council libraries project, families with premature children will be getting a helping hand.