More than 120 young patients at The Royal Children’s Hospital have signed up to the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge in a record effort during this National Year of Reading.
Children and young people throughout the hospital have taken the challenge to read as many books as they can on the Premiers’ Reading Challenge list, along with their personal favourites, joining hundreds of thousands of Victorian school students registered in the Challenge.
RCH Education Institute Executive Director Glenda Strong is a passionate supporter of the National Year of Reading and praises the efforts of RCH teachers who are promoting the Premiers’ Reading Challenge to patients and encouraging them to read widely and regularly.
“I am always reminding people that the hospital is a learning place”, says Glenda. “Our teachers create learning opportunities for children and young people that keep them connected to learning when a health condition keeps them away from school and their peers. By participating in the Premiers’ Reading Challenge we see children proudly involved in the same kind of activity that their peers are experiencing back at school. Not only do we normalise the hospital experience for children by running these kinds of programs but our teachers create a great deal of excitement and joy around learning in the hospital”, she says.
One patient who has taken the Challenge is Abbeygael Solo. Abbey is six years old and enrolled in her first year of school at Mother of God Primary School in Ardeer. However, most of Abbey’s Prep year has been spent in The Royal Children’s Hospital as she undergoes treatment in the Children’s Cancer Centre.
Patient Abbey with some of the books she has been reading for the Premiers’ Reading Challenge at the RCH
“Abbey spent first term and two weeks of second term at school, the rest of the time she has been here in the hospital”, says Abbey’s mother Malia as she goes about personalising Abbey’s room for her latest stay. “We’ll be here for fourth term too”, she says.
As she speaks, Malia presses Abbey’s favourite Disney princess stickers onto the glass door of the hospital room— the stickers are removable and Malia puts them up in every new room Abbey moves in to when she’s in hospital.
Abbey has been in this room for less than an hour but it already looks a lot like any young child’s bedroom, drawings painted by Abbey’s school friends are stuck on the wall, along with warm messages from friends and family, posters, books, even a baby brother asleep in his pram.
Since Abbey signed up to the Premiers’ Reading Challenge she has exceeded her target of reading 15 books on the Challenge list and another five of her own choice. Abbey has read the majority of these books while in hospital, with the support of RCH teachers and her family. Abbey’s mother, Malia says they regularly borrow books from school and local libraries for Abbey to enjoy in hospital.
“Abbey loves the Billie B Brown series by Sally Rippin”, says Malia and the two of them begin to list the titles Abbey has read in that series.
Abbey is quick to remember the books she has particularly enjoyed reading for the Challenge.
“I read The Cat in the Hat on the iPad”, says Abbey. “And I read Wombat Stew—it was a bit scary at first, but not at the end”, she says with a smile.
It’s obvious that reading is a welcome distraction and pleasure for Abbey when she’s in hospital. When asked what her favourite book is, Abbey’s face lights up as she replies “Beauty and the Beast. That’s my favourite.”