JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), reading to babies boosts their neurological development. To give babies in neonatal intensive care the best start, the Children’s of Mississippi NICU is hosting a Babies with Books Read-a-thon.

Through September 21, 2023, care team members and parents will read to their babies in a friendly competition among 276 neonatal intensive care units across the country.

The 2023 Read-a-thon will build on the success of last year’s competition among 154 NICUs, which recorded 31,879 reading sessions.

“We’re honored to join some of the best hospitals in the country in this annual event,” said Dr. Mobolaji Famuyide, chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). “When parents read to their babies, they’re not only bonding with them. They’re helping their babies’ brains develop.”

Story-time with parents promotes bonding, but health experts said studies have shown that the simple act of reading stories to babies in neonatal intensive care can have benefits including development of language, literacy and social skills as they grow.

Books will be in each of the 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms inside the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi and Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants as each baby’s first books. This means the supply of books in the NICU will need to be replenished after the Read-a-thon.

Children’s of Mississippi supporters can add to the books through an Amazon wish list for books in English and Spanish.