CHKD NICU first in Virginia for reading program


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s no secret that reading to children from a very young age is extremely important for their development. It is so important that the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) has become the first hospital in the Commonwealth to have a special reading program in the NICU. 

Reach Out and Read is actually a nationwide program. In Hampton Roads it’s actually been in this area for 20 years now,” said Dr. Rebecca Dorner, a neonatologist at CHKD. 

However, Reach Out and Read has never been in a NICU in Virginia until now. Dr. Dorner says Reach Out and Read provides books to the NICU that nurses, doctors, and parents can read to the babies. 

“So, really, it’s a way to kind of bring that early language learning to the bedside early to help parents do that bonding, and babies to learn those language cues early on,” said Dr. Dorner.

Erin McCarthy is thankful for the program. She’s a mom from Chesapeake who delivered her baby, Charlie, at just 29 weeks. 

“(Reach Out and Read) just makes you feel good, and it’s something you can do for them when really we couldn’t do a whole lot at first,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy and her husband read to Charlie in the CHKD NICU as he fought to grow and get stronger. 

“It kind of made me relax. I feel like it relaxed him. So, I loved it.”

Every month the babies are in the NICU, they are given a new book to keep. 

“Some people, you know, don’t have books, or these babies don’t have books, so I think it’s really important that the program is providing those for parents to be able to read to those babies,” said McCarthy.

Clearly it is never too early to “Reach Out and Read.”

“It’s an early way to kind of show love and care, and in a nice, calm voice that can actually be soothing for even the tiniest of babies,” said Dr. Dorner.

Baby Charlie is now home with his mom and dad, and he is thriving. They are now focused on his growth and strength, and, of course, a passion for reading. 

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