Literacy starts at birth or, as research suggests, in utero. Health Canada has recognized that literacy is a
determinant of health. The evidence shows a strong relationship between early positive literacy experiences
and improved brain development. The Montreal Children's Hospital is working in partnership with The Centre
for Literacy via health care providers to promote literacy and engage families in reading.
The program integrates literacy promotion into health care practice, and provides books to families of
children who visit or stay at The Montreal Children's Hospital. The project objectives include creating a
hospital orientation to literacy and health, and building community resources to support such a program.
In the course of the project:
All children aged 0-5 who visit selected clinics receive a book in their mother tongue.
Parents are given a bookmark and information that explains the importance of reading
for child development, encourages visits to local library and/or bookstores, and to
continue a habit of reading.
Health care professionals screen families for literacy orientation (i.e. Is reading an
important activity? Are parents experiencing difficulties reading?) and refer the parent
to adult literacy services when appropriate.
The outpatient waiting room has a "reading corner". Volunteers read to children to model
reading for parents, and to help decrease the stress of waiting.
All wards have volunteers trained to read to individual children.
A new program with teenage mothers and their infants started in 2010.
Other literacy programs at the MCH
Biblio-Express offers books and encouragement to read to hospitalized children.
Books for Babies gives books to parents in the NICU.
The pilot project began in March 2007, in The Montreal Children's Hospital's four primary pediatric clinics:
Pediatric Consultation, Residents' Continuity, the Multicultural Clinic, and the Neonatal Clinic which
follows children at risk for developmental delays after an admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care
Unit (NICU). Annual celebration of Family Literacy Day at The Montreal Children's Hospital helps raise
family and staff awareness about the importance of literacy.
For staff and support professionals, workshops and consulting services provide background on current literacy
research, highlighting the links between literacy and health. In 2010 a needs assessment was carried out with
staff who participate in the programs and educational modules are being prepared.
This project has received support from the Golfapalooza Classic, the Alva Foundation, The Montreal Children's
Auxiliary and The Centre for Literacy.