Home Lifestyle FirstHealth’s tiniest patients take part in second annual Read-a-thon

FirstHealth’s tiniest patients take part in second annual Read-a-thon

Laura Valleni, M.D., neonatologist at Moore Regional, engages in a reading session with NICU patient baby Bellamy and mom Chantele Shows as part of the hospital’s involvement in the Books with Babies Read-a-thon. Looking on is Mela Wilburn, R.N., nurse manager for the NICU, who joined the fun dressed as Cat in the Hat. Photo by FirstHealth

PINEHURST — Staff, patients and families of the Clarke Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital will take part in a friendly competition between NICUs to see who can read to their patients the most during the month of September.

Babies with Books is a student-led early literacy organization that creates and supports NICU reading programs. The NICU reading program was first launched at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Last year, more than 154 NICUs participated, and there were a total of 31,879 reading sessions over the 11-day period.

According to neonatal specialists at Moore Regional, reading to premature babies provides many benefits for patients and families alike.

“NICU reading promotes infant brain development, fosters family bonding, and decreases infant and parental stress related to intensive care hospitalization,” said Laura Valleni, M.D., neonatologist at Moore Regional. “We’re thrilled to participate in this program again and further support our NICU babies and their families.”


The read-a-thon will take place Sept. 11-21 in conjunction with NICU Awareness Month and National Literacy Month. As part of the program, each baby in the NICU will receive a book to keep that will accompany information on the importance of reading. The number of reading sessions and average daily census during the read-a-thon will be tallied and submitted to Babies with Books.

Since launching Babies with Books last year, Moore Regional has established a reading nook with a NICU book library so that books are always available to be read to the babies and help with their development. NICU babies at Moore Regional also receive two books to take home. Additionally, parents are encouraged to sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. As part of this program, The Moore County Partners for Children and Families generously provides preschoolers in our community with their own Imagination Library and one new book every month until their fifth birthday.

“We’re thankful for the generosity of our community partners to support early literacy,” added Dr. Valleni. “Encouraging early literacy promotes early brain development, family integrated care and bonding while babies are in the NICU. Together, we are creating a positive experience for our families that will have a lasting impact on our youngest patients.”