As COVID-19 disrupts daily life across the country, a province-wide early reading promotion program out of the IWK is finding new ways to reach parents of babies born during the pandemic. The Read to Me program is creating a series of free digital booklets with information about reading together in the first few months of life, even if parents and caregivers have no access to physical books in the home.
“We know that this is a challenging time for families with new babies,” says Nancy Edgar, manager of the Read to Me program. “We also know that reading with babies is an important activity, especially in stressful times. Sharing a rhyme, singing a song or simply looking at a book of smiling faces together can help parents feel more relaxed, and babies will learn that words and pages are fun to share.”
The first booklet, A COVID-19 Guide to Reading To Your Newborn is now available on the Read to Me website and has information on reading to babies in the first three months, age-appropriate book suggestions, and fun rhymes to enjoy together. There are also links to local libraries and bookstores, as well as online resources to enhance a family’s reading experience with their baby.
Read to Me is also creating a resource to support grandparents during COVID-19.
“Many grandparents are struggling with how to connect with beloved grandchildren during this time of physical distancing, while others are anxious that they may not be able to meet a newborn grandchild in person for some time,” says Read to Me provincial coordinator Shanda LaRamee-Jones. “We want to reassure grandparents that there are so many ways to develop social connections with grandchildren, and that there are lots of great ways that they can support even the youngest grandchild’s healthy development though reading books, singing lullabies and playing tickle games, even at a distance.
Since its inception in 2002 over 144,000 iconic yellow Read to Me bags have been distributed to babies across Nova Scotia. Because of COVID-19 the program has had to suspend its hospital bedside delivery. Instead each Family Newborn Unit in Nova Scotia has received a printable letter (in English, French, Arabic and Chinese) that is shared with parents in their discharge paperwork before they leave the hospital. The letter invites parents to visit the Read to Me website to order a Read to Me bag, which they will receive when normal program operations resume.