Early literacy program expanding to the Stollery NICU

September 18, 2018

EDMONTON — The Stollery Children’s Hospital and the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) are partnering to give neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) families resources to help with their baby’s early brain development.

This month, EPL’s Welcome Baby program will be expanding to the Stollery NICU at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH). The program provides new parents a package – assembled by library volunteers – that includes a book bag, board book, compact disc of downloadable songs and rhymes, early literacy information and an invitation to get a free library card.

While in the NICU, premature infants hear plenty of noise but little language, and they are deprived of the full extent of in-utero language exposure due to their shortened gestation.

“Evidence suggests that parents who read to their children in the NICU are more likely to read to their children after discharge,” says Dr. Amber Reichert, a NICU neonatologist at the Stollery. “Working with EPL to hand out early literacy kits to families in our NICU will help provide support to the parents and newborns who may need it the most. Reading, singing and talking with their baby is a natural and normal thing that parent can do to nurture and bond with their babies in the scary world of the NICU.”

Since 2014, parents visiting local Alberta Health Services (AHS) public health centres for their baby’s two-month immunization have been offered Welcome Baby packages. More than 8,000 families were offered the packages last year.

Deanna Ganske, whose newborn daughter required NICU care, is happy the program will be available to families in the hospital.

“As a first-time mother, I found myself in an unexpected place, feeling very overwhelmed, and unable to do the things with my baby at home that most new mothers get to experience,” says Ganske. “Reading provides the language and the voice that a baby would hear if they were still in the womb. The Welcome Baby program is the perfect opportunity to help a parent’s natural instinct to kick in by reading to their child, build a bond and start developing language skills.”

The Stollery NICU at the RAH receives an average of 120 admissions per month. EPL plans on expanding the program to all Edmonton NICUs in the near future.

”We know how crucial the early years are for brain development, and our goal is to ensure all families have equal access to the resources and tools necessary for a baby’s success later in life,” says EPL CEO Pilar Martinez.

“Plus, a library card, books and storytime are the first steps to a love of reading – as well as an opportunity for meaningful interactions and beautiful memories for parents.”

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans

EPL is proud to be 2014 Library of the Year. EPL has come a long way since 1913 when books were all you could find on the shelves... and the library is just getting started. Today, EPL carries everything you care about. EPL is Edmonton's largest lender of all manner of information and entertainment. Professionally trained staff take you beyond Google with the knowledge, discernment and desire to help you navigate a universe of information. The second most visited place in Edmonton, every year the library hosts over 15.4 million in-branch and online visits across 21 branches and EPL delivers incredible content everywhere – in the library, at home and on your handheld device. Unmatched access and unrivalled value – that is today’s EPL. EPL is a registered charity and relies on donations to enhance services. Spread the words:

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For media inquiries, contact:

Sharman Hnatiuk
AHS Communications

Heather McIntyre
Edmonton Public Library