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Top Picks Best Children's Books by Parents

A selection of our favourite children’s books for reading in the Neonatal Unit.

Chosen by parents, Simpsons Special Care Babies volunteers and neonatal staff. 

Book Cover Olga da Polga.jpg

Olga da Polga

by Michael Bond and illustrated by Catherine Rayner

A story about a tenacious and inquisitive little guinea-pig, Olga da Polga is truly full of adventure. This was one of the first books we read to our son in the unit, and now, two years later, is still a firm family favourite.

Written by the wonderful Michael Bond (author of Paddington), and brought to life with wonderful illustrations by Edinburgh-based Catherine Rayner.

~ Olivia

Book Cover Jack and the FlumFlum

Jack and the FlumFlum Tree

by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by award-winning illustrator, David Roberts

When their twin boys were born prematurely, David and Gemma Springford spent over eight weeks in a neonatal unit. Reading books to their babies helped them to bond with their boys and formed some of their most special memories as a family.

Jack and the FlumFlum Tree was a particular family favourite and Dave and Gemma have donated a copy of this book to babies in neonatal units across Scotland, in partnership with Scottish Book Trust. Find out more about their experience and how they feel reading in the unit helped them in this film.

Book Cover Maisie and the Botanic Garden

Maisie and the Botanic Garden Mystery

By Aileen Paterson

Maisie was born at 35+2. We were lucky that Maisie was the ‘biggest’ baby in the NICU at 5lb 1.5oz and she only had to stay there for a couple of nights.

We read to Maisie all the time and she absolutely loves ‘Maisie goes to the botanic gardens’. Given to her when she was born, Maisie genuinely believes they’re about her and loves going to the botanic gardens looking for all the plants and animals from the book!

~ Lauren

Book Cover The Gruffalo.jpg

The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson

When our son was born, we were so lucky to have friends who understood what we were going through and offer us advice and comfort. Their own son had been born at 32 weeks so when our little guy came along at just under 34 weeks, they were a great support to us.

They kindly brought in two gorgeous Julia Donaldson books which have become firm favourites of ours. Reading in the unit really helped us bond with him and brought comfort to us all - I’d recommend it to anyone experiencing something similar.

~ Jed

Book Cover Guess How Much I Love You.jpg

Guess How Much I Love You?

By Sam McBratnie

Having visited my nephew in the Neonatal Unit years before having my first child, I spent a lot of time reading to him whilst he was in his incubator. I found it a comfort and it made me feel like I was able to do something to help in a very small way.

When I then had my own son in the unit years later, I knew that reading was something we could do to help us bond with James and to allow him to hear our voices and the relaxing tone from reading a book. In normal circumstances, you might be cooing at your newborn, cuddling them, looking into their eyes and talking to them constantly, but when they are all wrapped up in an incubator with wires on, that’s not so easy and so it’s so important to have that interaction, for them to hear your voice.

We were given ‘Guess How Much I Love You?’ By Sam McBratnie, accompanied by a tiny toy rabbit to match the one in the book. We were allowed one small toy in James’ incubator, so we popped the rabbit in for company and read that book to him a lot!

I can’t emphasise enough how much reading helped us through what was a tough time and how much I think it has benefited James in the long run. Books are fantastic!!!

~ Anna, mum of James


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