The importance of books in hospitals

Gecko Press recently donated 360 new hardback books to children at Nelson Hospital here in New Zealand.

Dr. Peter McIlroyDr Peter McIlroy, Consultant Padeiatrician at Nelson Hospital, helped us coordinate our donation and here he discusses the impact of reading and books in hospitals.




Over the last 2 years, COVID-19 infection prevention measures have meant that tamariki visiting the outpatient department, or admitted to the inpatient ward, have had heavily restricted access to toys. In January, the Paediatric department at Nelson Hospital received a generous donation of books from Gecko Press—Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop, Aleph: A Picture Dictionary for Babies by Janik Coat, and Rivers: A Visual History from River to Sea by Peter Goes. With these carefully chosen books from Gecko Press, we can now provide an age-appropriate book for whānau during their stay at hospital or at their outpatient appointment.

We think it is so important for tamariki visiting our hospital to have developmentally appropriate objects for play and pleasure, and then be able to take them home. Clinical staff have noted the unique ability for a book to foster shared enjoyment and engagement (freed from electronic distractions) between tamariki and their parents. In many respects, books are the ultimate gift to strengthen nurturing relationships. They allow healthy ‘serve and return’ interactions to occur, at a pace set by tamariki. They promote shared attention, language, stimulate imagination, and understanding of emotion, all within an ideal relational context.

Books have enhanced our ability to build trust with whānau and observe critical aspects of the development and behaviour of tamariki. Although we have had books available in the past, they have not always been age-appropriate, and the pleasure tamariki show when they understand that they can keep the book is fantastic.

Feedback from whānau has been overwhelmingly positive, and the Paediatric Department would like to express our gratitude for this generous gift.

–Dr Peter McIlroy

Dr Peter McIlroy reads a book with 4 year old Etta and Registered Nurse Margaret Doorman.

Gecko Press would in turn like to thank Nelson Marlborough District Health Board for covering the shipping costs and for sharing our books with visiting tamariki and whānau.

Here is a lovely example of the active interactions books can promote.