In a bid to improve literacy in the Teesside area, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has teamed up with the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough and the local council to hand out 3,000 free reading packs to new mums and their babies as well as children who are inpatients at The James Cook University Hospital.
A team of 49 volunteers from the therapeutic care team at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has assembled the reading packs which each contain a story book, an activity book and colouring pencils as well as 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 volunteers to parents of babies and children who are admitted to wards 21 and 22. There are three packs tailored for children under four-years-old; five to eight-years-old and those over the age of nine. The volunteers will talk to parents about the importance of reading together as a family and encouraging children to read for enjoyment.
Research by the World Health Organisation found that better literacy leads to healthier children as well as helping them to do better at school.* The collaboration with the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough aims to improve children’s health and literacy outcomes.
South Tees Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust’s women and children’s centre is one of only a few in the country to be involved in a literacy programme of this type.
Jane Wiles, head of nursing for neonates, children and young people at the trust, can see major benefits of joining the scheme. Jane said: “We are delighted to support this scheme to encourage children to develop their reading skills. When children can read they are more able to benefit from education and we know in the longer term this supports improvements in health. Reading is an essential skill with significant benefits both from an enjoyment and also an education perspective.
“This is a project with a long term health view so that children can benefit from books which will initially be given in our neonatal services. This will include children who are unwell and admitted to hospital.”
Edward Kunonga, director of public health at Middlesbrough Council, which joint-funded the initiative with the National Literacy Trust Hub in the town, said: “We are delighted to be launching this important and significant campaign with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that will contribute to our children having the best start in life.
“Reading at an early age is associated with a range of immediate and long-term educational health and well-being benefits for a child as well as parent and family interactions. Making reading packs available at the hospital ensures that children who are unwell or admitted into hospital have access to a large range of interesting books.”
The National Literary Trust Hub in Middlesbrough is an initiative working in partnership with Middlesbrough Council and other local organisations such as South Tees, Bliss, Holme House Prison, High Tide Foundation and Middlesbrough Football Foundation to raise awareness of the importance of literacy support in the area to create long-term change where low literacy levels seriously impact on people’s lives.
Allison Potter, manager of the National Literary Trust Hub in Middlesbrough, said: “A child’s stay in hospital is a very anxious time for families and the simple pleasures of reading and sharing stories can bring some comfort during the long hours spent at their child’s bedside.
“This is a pioneering initiative supported by dedicated volunteers which is providing fantastic literacy support to thousands of families. The hub strives to build strong long-term partnerships with local services and we are delighted to be working with public health services and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.”
Richenda Broad, executive director for well-being, care and learning at Middlesbrough Council, also backed the opportunity given to local new mums: “I’m particularly pleased to support the reading gift packs, which are being launched at The James Cook University Hospital.
“Reading is a precious skill and helps children to develop their imagination and confidence. For children in hospital it is particularly important that they have access to reading material that provides diversion and support while they are on the ward.
“I’m very grateful to the work of the National Literary Trust Hub in Middlesbrough who are leading on this initiative and I’m sure that the children will enjoy and benefit from it.”