Hugs of stories: parent voice and reading during hospitalization in intensive care unit and neonatal pathology

by Claudia Ravaldi

The “Hugs of Stories” project stems from our long experience with families of children who are severely premature or have congenital conditions that require a longer or shorter time of hospitalization after birth. We are very happy to present you with this new challenge that combines the principles of perinatal care, which is a right of all boys and girls, regardless of their health conditions and the length of their lives, those of perinatal neuroscience and psychotraumatology, and also best practices that, with a little organizational effort, all departments can adopt, thanks to our support.

About 1 in 10 families come to CiaoLapo after a hospitalization in intensive care or neonatal pathology;

1 in 7 of the families we assist during the pregnancy following bereavement return to these same wards with the next baby or child.

Time spent in neonatology is always an emotionally intense experience, especially after a previous bereavement

We should not forget that, the first few days after birth are very precious and are still an opportunity to leave beneficial traces in the experience of families: this can only happen if meaningful and nurturing relationships between caregivers and parents are co-constructed during the hospitalization and comprehensive care is promoted so effectively that parents, even when very distressed, frightened, shocked or confused, can establish a satisfying and responsive contact with their babies and children.

We are story gatherers: since time immemorial, long before writing and then printing came into existence, human beings (and more generally, many other mammals and certain birds as well) have used stories to “pass on” from one generation to the next fragments of existence that cannot be dispersed.

Telling stories is a way to cement relationships and connect people.

Many of us, among our indelible childhood memories, cherish that specific nursery rhyme hummed by grandma, the bedtime story read by dad or the first book shared with mom: reading is a multisensory experience, which deeply engages and envelops us, simultaneously touching almost all our senses.

We started from this consideration in structuring this project: boys and girls, from the fifth month of pregnancy onward, develop hearing and are able to recognize mom and dad’s voice, and mom’s smell, among a thousand other voices and smells.

In the sudden chaos of an early birth or hospitalization in the midst of sounds, lights, noises and many, many people and many, many procedures, the familiar voice is the only anchor to cling to, and from which to start exploring the world, especially if one has entered it a bit biased: even we, who are grown up, if we are in an unfamiliar city and do not know the language everyone speaks, are immediately relieved when we recognize familiar sounds.

It happens the same way with our boys and girls: that’s why our voices as parents are valuable resources, that’s why we can use them as a gentle compass, to accompany our children during hospitalization, no matter how much time we can share.

What is “Hugs of Stories?”

Hugs of Stories is a bibliotherapy project to promote the well-being of parents, boys and girls through the reading of carefully selected illustrated books from the suitcase of #albimedicine, the selection of salutogenic books that Dr. Ravaldi has been pursuing for nearly fifteen years.

What is the goal of “Hugs of Stories”?

Hugs of stories has two goals:

  1. train practitioners on the benefits of reading aloud and bibliotherapy, so that they in turn can give parents the support they need to be able to use their voice as a “hug” for their hospitalized boys and girls: this simple daily practice, through short stories, tales, nursery rhymes or songs, “anchors” the child and girl in the here and now, thanks to the familiar and reassuring voice of mom or dad;
  2. Offer parents free access to high quality albums, with and without words, With good stories and good illustrations, so that they can enjoy it themselves: leading good stories activates a series of cognitive and sensory processes such that stress is “lowered” and tension just enough to take a breather and resume caring for their children responsively, even in critical situations, without forgetting themselves.

What tools does “Hugs of Stories” use?

The “Hugs of Stories” project uses picture books with and without words and operator-parent and parent-child narration aloud.

How to join the project?

HelloLapo each year fully funds the project in ten intensive care and/or neonatal pathology wards.

Participating wards benefit from free training for health care workers so as to spread good practices of reading aloud in a sustainable and easily reproducible way in the daily ward routine.

Departments participating in the project receive a gift from the association of 10 illustrated books that the practitioners themselves can choose from the larger list of #albimedicine.

Two places are still available for 2024.

Those who would like more information can write to, Sara and Claudia will get back to you as soon as possible.



You may also like