Storyteller Amanda and Specialist Learning Mentor Harry and the Read for Good bookcase

Specialist Learning Mentor Harry Hawcroft from Leeds Children’s Hospital shares his thoughts on Read for Good’s hospital programme

Although I’ve only recently started working as a Specialist Learning Mentor at Leeds Children’s Hospital, it’s extremely evident how beneficial the partnership with Read for Good is for both patients and their families during the time they are here.

By providing a diverse range of books that children get to read and keep, young patients’ worries and fears are temporarily forgotten as they are distracted by the vibrant pictures of animals, unicorns, monsters, families, dragons, sports personalities and countless other different characters in the wide range of storybooks that are transported throughout the hospital on the Read for Good ‘wheely’ bookcase.

What’s more, Read for Good also provides popular current books for teenagers and young adults by renowned authors – all offering the same welcome distraction as the storybooks do for the younger readers.

Another one of the most significant and special attributes of Read for Good, is the in-hospital guest storyteller. I very recently had the pleasure of taking Amanda around the different wards as she transported children away from their hospital beds to other worlds with her vivid descriptions and funny characters.

For the whole time Amanda spends with the children, they are comforted in the understanding that she is not part of the medical or education teams and is, instead, a welcome guest whose sole intentions are to relax, distract and put a smile on the patient’s face. Patients who have previously found it difficult to engage in play or education-based activities benefit massively from being able to listen to and be absorbed by the stories that Amanda tells with such enthusiasm and humour. It is difficult for them not to take part by the end!

Although often shy, by gradually building up the amount of energy, Amanda gets even some of the quietest and most reserved patients on the edge of their beds as they actively listen and interact with her stories when prompted. Her stories vary from traditional folk tales to epics stories starring the sun and moon … and there are even some spooky stories for some of the older patients. Regardless of the patient’s condition or background, Amanda is skilled in choosing the relevant story regardless of how much time she has previously spent with the patient.

At a time where patients are increasingly being distracted by iPads and other technology, having a storyteller is a welcome addition to the existing activities and engagement sessions. They are perfect for encouraging patients to exercise their imaginations and build comforting relationships with the storyteller.

Amanda – and storytelling in general – has proven to be key in helping and relaxing patients whilst in hospital and assisting in building these crucial relationships, especially for youngsters who have been in hospital for a longer period of time or are going through a particularly difficult situation that has left them sad and reserved.

I feel very lucky and happy to have the opportunity to assist Amanda around the hospital – it’s something that the patients and I always look forward to!

Harry Hawcroft
Specialist Learning Mentor
Leeds Children’s Hospital