Reading Right From the Start

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Provided by Novant Health

reading-from-startWalk into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Novant Health Prince William Medical Center, and you’ll likely see babies staring intently at the tops of their incubators. What are they looking at? Pages from their very first books.

Staff nurse Sherry Roloff, RN, came up with the idea after finding a black-and-white board book called Hello, Animals! in one of the babies’ rooms. The book, which had been donated by the hospital’s auxiliary as part of its program to give a book to every newborn, features 10 animals in high-contrast black and white – perfect for stimulating young minds.

“I started taping the pictures in the incubators or open sides of the cribs so the babies could look at them,” says Roloff, who has worked in the NICU for 16 years. “And the babies absolutely loved them.”

Although newborn babies aren’t colorblind, their vision is generally blurry for the first six months. High-contrast colors, such as black and white, are easier for them to see, especially when placed close to their faces.

“NICU babies spend a lot of time in their incubators,” Roloff says. “And as they grow older, they’re alert for longer periods of time. The pictures engage them while they’re awake, helping them to grow and develop the visual parts of their brains. And as they see the pictures more often, they start to reach for them. This, in turn, helps encourage physical activity and hand-eye coordination, which are important skills for any growing baby.”

Penny Winstel, RN, BSN, MBA, nurse manager of the hospital’s women’s and children’s unit, was amazed the first time she saw the incubator additions and how actively they captured the babies’ attention.

“It is really remarkable to watch the babies as they look at the pictures,” Winstel explains. “They provide the perfect stimulation for our infants and a wonderful first introduction to reading.”

About Novant Health

Novant Health is a four-state integrated network of physician clinics, outpatient centers and hospitals that delivers a seamless and convenient healthcare experience to our communities. The Novant Health network consists of more than 1,200 physicians and 26,000 employees who make healthcare remarkable at nearly 500 locations, including 15 medical centers and hundreds of outpatient facilities and physician clinics. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., Novant Health is committed to making healthcare remarkable for our patients and our communities, serving more than four million patients annually. In 2013, Novant Health provided more than $566 million in community benefit including charity care and services. Novant Health is one of the top 25 integrated health systems in the United States and was named a top 50 “Best Places for Diverse & Women Managers to Work” by Diversity MBA Magazine.

For more information, please visit our website at NovantHealth.org. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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