Nurses, families and hospital staff are reading to babies this week in the Abrazo Arrowhead Campus Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It’s part of the Babies with Books read-a-thon to encourage family reading and support NICU infants and families at the hospital.
Abrazo Arrowhead nurses have been handing out children’s books to families and encouraging reading while they are in the hospital at 18701 N. 67th Ave., Glendale. Reading from birth onwards helps advance brain development, language skills, vocabulary, listening and memory skills, a news release states.
“September is NICU Awareness Month. This is one of the activities that we are participating in, as reading to babies promotes brain development and provides an important opportunity for families to bond with their babies,” Ramya Kumar, Abrazo Arrowhead NICU developmental coordinator, shared.
Studies show that preterm infants who are not exposed to language while in the NICU have lower language performance at age 2. Reading to babies helps build language, literacy and social-emotional skills at a critical time in a child’s development, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“These are especially important activities for babies with prolonged hospitalizations Anyone can read to the babies,” Kumar stated. “This has engaged nursing students, medical team members, our rehab team and others to participate in the read-a-thon.”
NICU babies can be at high risk of poor neurodevelopmental outcomes due to prematurity, critical illness, prolonged hospitalization, low socioeconomic status, and family emotional and economic stressors associated with hospitalization in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It’s not only good for the babies and parents, it helps build morale in the NICU and Labor and Delivery Units, said Kumar.
“The read-a-thon offers opportunities to participate in initiatives through the hospital’s clinical ladder and volunteer programs, and we have staff donating items to the NICU for future events,” Kumar stated. “Many families like to also do a book drive on their former NICU baby’s birthday.”
Providing parents and other caregivers books and encouraging them to read with infants in the NICU provides an important route for increasing infants’ speech and language interactions, and supports bonding and family involvement with their infants’ care in the NICU, Kumar noted.
More than 3,500 babies are born annually at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, which opened in 1988 and which offers a Level IIIA NICU for high-risk patients and high order multiple births.