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CaptureThe National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough has been Highly Commended at the Third Sector’s Business Charity Awards for work with Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health department and Bliss, the charity for babies who are born prematurely or unwell.

The initiative at James Cook University Hospital, where literacy packs are being distributed to new parents to encourage them to make reading with their children a priority from the day they are born, was Highly Commended in the Charity Partnership (Public Sector) category.

As a result of the project, new mums have discovered the benefits of reading to their babies from the beginning. When Hannah Morris, 26 and her baby, Christina, were admitted to the neonatal unit, Sue Thompson, a Bliss nurse at James Cook University Hospital had a conversation with her about the value of sharing stories with babies from the earliest stages. She gave Hannah a ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ book by Sam McBratney, provided by Walker Books through the Middlesbrough Reading Campaign, plus  leaflets with advice on reading to children and offered Hannah a few tips on how to get started.

Hannah said the advice and books given at the neonatal ward has made her realise the benefits of her baby being able to hear her voice and she is looking forward to making sharing stories an important part of family time as Christina gets older. She said: “If it hadn’t been for Sue, I wouldn’t have bothered reading to Christina to be honest. I don’t think I’d have even talked to her as you don’t have much to say, but the reading gives you something to say. I will definitely read to her as she gets older as I know it helps improve her brain.”

Following the announcement on Wednesday Allison Potter, Manager of the National Literacy Trust in Middlesbrough, said: “We are very proud to have this fantastic recognition for our work with Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health department and Bliss. Partnerships are central to our National Literacy Trust Hubs and this collaboration with the public sector demonstrates the potential of existing public services to tackle low literacy in communities.”

Richenda Broad, Executive Director for Well-being, Care and Learning at Middlesbrough Council said “Middlesbrough Council is  delighted that the work of the National Literacy Trust has been recognised by this award. Encouraging  parents to read, sing and talk to their babies in the neonatal unit is one example of the innovative approaches that we use across Middlesbrough in partnership with the National Literacy Trust.  Schools, hospitals, libraries, Children’s  Centres and community centres are among the range of settings where the National Literacy Trust has delivered programmes in support of literacy and the legacy in Middlesbrough is that children are actively engaged in reading for pleasure and learning.”