We are a teen-led organization supporting our community’s most fragile babies hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We support NICU families during their baby’s hospitalization by giving them books and educating them on how and why NICU reading promotes infant brain development, supports family bonding, and decreases infant and parental stress related to intensive care hospitalization.
WHY READ IN THE NICU?
Reading in the NICU has been demonstrated to be important for speech and language development, school readiness, and success later on in life. NICU babies are at increased risk of poor developmental outcomes such as speech delays and lower IQs due to medical complications, abnormal auditory experiences in the first months of life, separation of babies and families, and family socioeconomic stressors both prior to and related to the NICU hospitalization.
OUR WORK IN THE NICU
NICU BOOK ROUNDS
Based upon medical research on the benefits of reading with infants in the NICU, our first of its kind teen-led NICU book rounds program builds bonds between parents and babies during a time of crisis and creates normalcy in the ICU. BWB teens meet one-on-one with families to discuss the joys and benefits of reading beginning in the NICU. By ensuring all families leave the NICU with at least one book and knowledge of the importance of early literacy, BWB helps a generation of children to read and succeed. We have already provided more than 1,000 families their choice of multiple new books from our selection of books in 7 languages at Randall Children's Hospital, our first NICU site.
ADMIT READING PACKETS
Through our NICU Admit Reading Packets, each NICU family is introduced to our reading program with a book and information about how and why to read with their baby in the NICU.
The BWB NICU read-a-thon at Randall Children's Hospital (March 2020) was one of the first NICU read-a-thons in the country and served as the model for our multi-site NICU read-a-thon (September 2020).
NICU read-a-thons are friendly competitions in which NICU families compete to read the most with their baby. “Winners” received a gift basket of books and other literacy promoting items.
SIBLING BOOK LIBRARY
We have established a library for patient siblings in the NICU lobby at Randall Children's Hospital. This library is stocked with hundreds of children’s books for all ages of children. We are so grateful for the donations of 900 books from the Children’s Book Bank and Titlewave Used Bookstore of Multnomah County Library.
RANDALL READS -
THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL THAT READS
BWB's focus on supporting children and families through the power of books and reading together has inspired a hospital-wide focus on supporting early literacy and family bonding throughout Randall Children's Hospital (RCH). BWB is working with RCH to develop an integrated literacy focus throughout the children's hospital recognizing education as central to health so that every child leaves the hospital with at least one book. Together, we are establishing RCH as "Randall Reads - The Children's Hospital That Reads!"
In September 2020, we hosted the first US-based international NICU read-a-thon. Building on our March 2020 read-a-thon at Randall, this read-a-thon promoted NICU reading through a friendly competition between families within hospitals and between hospitals across the globe. Based on the enthusiastic feedback from the 39 participating NICUs, this will be an annual event!
Join us for next year's read-a-thon in September 2021.
Building on our poster at the Vermont Oxford Network (VON) Annual Quality Congress in Chicago, we wrote up our work in a peer-reviewed article in Neonatology Today to share our work and promote NICU reading on a larger scale.
Babies With Books Map
NICUs that participated in the September 2020 Read-a-thon are in blue. NICUs receiving BWB NICU Reading Program Process Guide are in red. Scroll to see non-US, process guide NICUs: Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Qatar, and the United Kingdom. At Randall Children's Hospital and Providence St Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR, our BWB teens have implemented NICU reading programs have implemented NICU reading programs.
BABIES WITH BOOKS DURING COVID-19
Our team continues to provide NICU families at Randall Children's Hospital and Providence St Vincent Medical Center with books and education on reading with their infant through our Admit Reading Packets and will resume in-person books rounds when possible.
We are expanding our team, working to implement our teen-led program in more NICUs, and sharing our reading program process guide for other NICUs to adopt or adapt for use in hospitals across the globe.
Reading to my NICU baby never crossed my mind before BWB came to our room.
My husband doesn't always know how to connect with our son since he's so little. Reading to him gives my husband the opportunity to bond in an easy way.
To see someone so young step up and advocate for a program like this just makes me so happy, as an educator and a mother. Keep up the amazing work - it is more appreciated than you’ll ever know!
HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL TESTIMONIALS
Bringing a book into the complex NICU environment and helping the family feel comfortable singing, talking, reading to their baby is one of the most important things we can do.
BWB is remarkable not only because it is the single teen-led program in the country and one of only several dozen programs reported, but because of its scope, measured impact, and incorporation of and contribution to best practices for literacy promotion in healthcare.
RCH NICU Medical Director
BRING BWB TO YOUR NICU!
We are sharing an in-depth procedural guide of our NICU reading program to hospitals across the United States and world. If you would like to build on this work and adapt or adopt the program in your hospital, fill out the form below (click the button) to receive our process guide. We are sharing our program resources for free to make NICU reading promotion accessible everywhere.
Why use our program as a model?
Research-based educational materials for both families and healthcare providers on the importance of NICU reading
Our guide details multiple program structures, building on our learnings of utilizing teen volunteers to decrease burden on healthcare systems and providers (our guide also describes programs adaptations without volunteers)
We share our learnings from 3.5 years of program development and expansion