Teen Sets Up Hospital Libraries for Premature Babies to Help Them Connect With Their Parents

Julia Mira
By Julia Mira
March 10, 2020Trending
Teen Sets Up Hospital Libraries for Premature Babies to Help Them Connect With Their Parents
Anoushka Talwar. (Courtesy of Shweta Kumar)

For Anouskha Talwar, who was born as a premature baby, her father was just a distant voice.

Her mother gave birth to her when she only 27 weeks, so Anouskha spent her first three months of her life inside a newborn intensive care unit (NICU), according to CNN.

Her father’s daily life went on by sitting beside her and trying to connect with her by singing and reading stories. His voice was the only means he could use to caress her.

“I saw pictures of him sitting next to the incubator that I was in, just trying to be with me,” Anoushka, now a 14-year-old ninth-grader at Lambert High School in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, told CNN.

“And that is really important, and so I wanted to help other parents connect with their premature babies.”

Libraries for Reading Aloud

Anoushka started a Girl Scout service project aimed at creating mini-libraries of children’s books for hospital neonatal intensive care units.

“I thought I would collect 100 books, and I went house-to-house and asked as many people as I could,” Anoushka said. “At first it was quite hard, but I didn’t give up. So, if anyone does a project like this, just don’t give up. I ended up collecting 450 books!”

Having 450 books was more than sufficient to set up two mini-libraries. She placed the first library in the NICU Scottish Rite Hospital of Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta in cooperation with the March of Dimes. The second mini-library is in the NICU for the Emory Johns Creek Hospital.

The books in the libraries are all hardcover because it is easy to disinfect them.

Anoushka Talwar and her brother Shiv
Anoushka Talwar and her brother Shiv. (Courtesy of Shweta Kumar)

Anoushka put the paperback books into care packages for parents to carry home so they get a chance to read them to their premature babies.

“My dad would tell me that reading to babies, especially premature babies, would help their brains develop,” Anoushka said.

According to research on premature babies, reading aloud can affect the development of higher cognitive functions in babies.

Finding Her Voice for Her Brother

Anoushka’s brother Shiva was also born prematurely at 26 weeks. She was 8-years-old at that time and started doing the same thing for him; reading aloud stories.

Her brother weighed only about two pounds and his weak and small body was something she found scary. But her parents inspired her to help her brother by talking to and reading clearly for him.

“I remember talking to my brother, telling him about my day, and I would read some of my little books to my brother,” she said.

Shiva now is 6-years-old, but Anoushka still enjoys letting him hear her voice.

She has earned the Girl Scout Silver award and the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Council’s Young Women of Distinction Award for completing this service project.

Anoushka, continuing her work after all these years by delivering books to hospitals, came across her brother’s neonatologist, Dr. Leslie Leigh, in the NICU.

“He was excited, and it makes me really happy to see how what I did is going to affect people lives”

The-CNN-Wire contributed to this article. 

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