Literacy HubA pioneering initiative in the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough to encourage parents to read to their premature babies in a hospital neonatal unit has been nominated for a national award.

The National Literacy Trust’s partnership with Middlesbrough Council’s public health team and Bliss, the charity for babies who are born prematurely or sick, has been shortlisted in the Cross-Sector Partnership of the Year category of the Charity Times Awards.

Parents whose babies are being cared for  at James Cook University Hospital have been given book packs and encouraged by nursing staff, who have received literacy training, to share stories and sing to their babies during their first days and weeks.

As a result of the project, mums and dads have discovered the benefits of making reading and singing part of their routine with their new-borns.

Helen, whose son, James, was admitted to the neonatal unit, received a copy of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney provided by Walker Books.

Bliss-funded nurses explained to Helen that talking and singing helps to keep a baby calm and establishes a strong bond between parent and child whilst the baby is kept in the ward.

Helen said: “The books and stories became an important part of our time in hospital.”

Allison Potter, Manager of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough, said: “We are very excited that our partnership with Middlesbrough Council’s public health team and Bliss has been shortlisted for this prestigious award.

“Sharing stories and singing songs has soothed babies and brought comfort to their parents during incredibly anxious times in the neonatal unit.

“It has been inspiring to see mums and dads sharing their own books with other families on the ward to enjoy with their babies.”

Since 2013, the National Literacy Trust Hub in Middlesbrough has been working in partnership with Middlesbrough  Council and other local and national partners including Middlesbrough FC, mima, James Cook University Hospital and Bliss to extend the reach of literacy support and raise awareness of the importance of literacy skills in the district through the Middlesbrough Reading Campaign.

More information can be found at