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Books donated to Newborn intensive care units to boost bonding

Reading charity, Booktrust has given thousands of free children's books to neonatal wards across England so parents can read to their premature and poorly babies.

A mum, who gave birth seven weeks early after major heart surgery, was pleased to receive a free children's book to read to her son during his extensive stay in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU).

Mum-of-two, Kayele Clifton was particularly excited to be given a copy of Super Duck by popular children's author Jez Alborough from Booktrust because she spends lots of time talking and reading to son, Archie in order to help him get used to her voice.

She explained: 'On the ward with all the different equipment, monitors and people. I worry Archie won't recognise my voice so I talk and read to him all the time.'

Kayele and her partner Michael Appleby, from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, have spent a lot of time on neonatal wards as their sons, C-Jay now four and Archie two and a half months, were both born extremely prematurely at 29 weeks.

The family are currently staying in Ronald McDonald housing by Saint Mary's neonatal unit in Manchester to stay close to Archie, who was born in May weighing just 887 grams, less than a bag of sugar.

Kayele was transferred to Central Manchester University Hospital when she was 21 weeks pregnant because she needed emergency surgery after the aorta valve in her heart exploded.

Archie was delivered a few weeks later because the placenta had been damaged during Kayele's surgery and he was being starved of oxygen, consequently stopping his growth.

During the family's stay, reading charity Booktrust were gifting copies of HarperCollins' Super Duck to families on the ward.


Not wanting any family to miss out on the life-changing bond that sharing and reading books together can bring, the charity have handed thousands of children's books to neonatal units across England.

Family support worker on Manchester's NICU, Sue McGaskill says: 'We often encourage parents to talk, read or sing to their babies. Some can be unsure because there are so many people around but by giving them a book it almost gives them permission.'

Booktrust understand that it's a challenging and overwhelming time for parents who have a baby in newborn intensive care units as they can't always choose when they hold, cuddle or nurse their child, affecting the way they interact with them.

They believe a simple book to read with their baby can help strengthen bonds and create intimacy.

Research indicates that reading to and sharing books with babies helps emotional bonding and promotes strong and loving relationships and secure attachment. Daily reading can also help with establishing a 'calming routine' (Hall, 2001). [1]

According to a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics [2] encouraging parents to talk to their babies can help promote closeness, but the stress of the NICU can make this difficult. Reading from a book, on the other hand, helps parents feel close to their babies. It also helps parents feel more in control of their situation and promotes future reading.

One hundred and thirty-six parents of babies in the NICU at Montreal Children's Hospital took part in the study and were assigned to either a group that used the 'Books for Babies' reading program, or a control group that did not use the reading program. Parents using the reading program read to their baby a few minutes every day.

Three months after discharge, the parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire. Sixty-nine per cent of parents who used the reading program reported that reading helped them feel closer to their baby and 86% said they enjoyed it.

Twice as many parents (55.9%) who used the reading program reported reading three or more times a week to their babies, compared with the control group (23.3%).

The study concluded that reading to babies in the NICU not only helps parents interact with their babies but it also promotes future reading.

Booktrust's Chief Executive, Viv Bird said: 'We are delighted that through our gift of children's books we have helped parents strengthen their bond with their baby while going through a difficult and stressful time.

'Books can make a big difference to people's lives, and sharing books is a good way for families to take time out and relax.'


[1] Hall, e., 2001. 'Babies, books and 'impact': problems and possibilities in the evaluation of a Bookstart project'. Educational review, 53(1):57-64

[2] Lariviere, j., 2011. 'Parent picture-book reading to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit as an intervention supporting parent-infant interaction and later book reading'. Study at Montreal Children's Hospital.


For more information and interview requests, contact Harriet Jackson or Monica Brimacombe in the Booktrust press team on harriet.jackson@booktrust.org.uk / monica.brimacombe@booktrust.org.uk or 0208 875 4827.

Notes to editors

Booktrust approached neonatal units across the country to give out copies of Super Duck during their National Bookstart Week (9-15June)

A smaller, pocket-sized version of the book was made for National Bookstart Week an annual celebration of Booktrust's flagship reading programme.

Through their book gifting programmes Booktrust aims to create a society of people who are motivated to read and who see themselves as readers whatever level that might be.

About Booktrust

Booktrust is Britain's largest reading charity. It makes a significant positive contribution to the educational outcomes of children from the earliest age. They work to give people of all backgrounds the benefits that a rich and positive engagement in reading and writing can bring. Booktrust is responsible for a number of successful national reading promotions, sponsored book prizes and creative reading projects aimed at encouraging readers to discover and enjoy books. These include the Blue Peter Book Award, the Children's Laureate, and Bookstart, the national programme that works through locally based organisations to give a free pack of books to babies and toddlers, with guidance materials for parents and carers. www.booktrust.org.uk

National Bookstart Week

National Bookstart Week is an annual celebration of Bookstart, the flagship reading programme from national charity, Booktrust. Bookstart aims to help every child in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to develop a lifelong love of reading that will give them a flying start in life through gifting free books to every child. This year's National Bookstart Week ran from 9 -15 June and saw millions of families across the UK coming together to discover stories, rhymes and reading.