University of Maryland Children’s Hospital Partners With Port Discovery Children’s Museum on Reading Program for NICU Infants

For Immediate Release June 03, 2016


Michael Schwartzberg:

PNC Provides Funding to Pilot and Evaluate Program to Engage Premature Infants

BALTIMORE – (June 2, 2016) - University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH) and Port Discovery Children’s Museum, with funding from the PNC Foundation, has launched an innovative early childhood education program designed to provide developmental stimulation to infants in The Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The funding includes a $20,000 grant to Port Discovery from the PNC Foundation’s Grow Up Great initiative to develop and pilot the program and a separate $8,000 grant from PNC to the Psychology Department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) to collaborate with UMCH staff to design and administer an evaluation of the program.

“We are grateful to both PNC and to Port Discovery for helping us establish the Mother Goose on the Loose Goslings program, which is one of many neurodevelopment targeted initiatives offered to our babies and their families in the new family-centered private room NICU, to promote newborn bonding and development,” said Dina El-Metwally, MD, PhD, Medical Director of The Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology-Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In the Fall of 2015, UMCH opened its new NICU to offer personalized, family-centered care for the region’s smallest and most critically-ill babies. Designed with 52 private rooms, families have the privacy and space they need to bond with their baby and perform important developmental practices such as skin-to-skin contact.

Developed by early language and literacy expert Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen, with the assistance of Dr. Brenda Hussey-Gardner, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Port Discovery Early Childhood Educators Summer Rosswog and Barb Henschel, Mother Goose on the Loose Goslings instructs families and volunteers on how best to engage premature infants using early language and literacy activities including talking, singing, reading and playing.

“As one of only two level IV NICUs in the state caring for Maryland’s tiniest and sickest babies, we continuously strive to provide the most comprehensive care and services for our patients and their families,” says Dr. Hussey-Gardner. “We are pleased to work with Port Discovery and UMBC to pioneer and evaluate this program.”

This year Mother Goose on the Loose Goslings includes 20, one-hour sessions with a trained early childhood facilitator from Port Discovery for up to seven families per session. Each participating family receives their own kit of materials to use in their individual rooms to promote their babies’ early language and literacy development and to provide support for them to better relate to and emotionally bond with their newborn. “We are excited to begin this pilot program at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital,” said Rosswog. “The NICU already affords unique approaches at providing neurodevelopmental stimuli for the most critical babies, such as skin-to-skin Kangaroo Care and audio recordings of parents reading; this program will provide parents with additional tools and resources to be able to properly engage with their infant while providing developmental stimulation.”

Under the direction of Dr. Susan Sonnenschein, Associate Professor of Psychology at UMBC, doctoral students Lisa Shanty and Rebecca Dowling work with NICU staff to collect and analyze data to evaluate the program. “The unique collaboration between Port Discovery, the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and UMBC will not only help parents learn important skills needed to foster the development of their babies, but will provide talented graduate students the opportunity to further develop essential research skills that will foster their future academic careers,” Dr. Sonnenschein said.

“Research shows that the first five years of a child’s life are critically important for brain development and future success,” said Will Backstrom, PNC client and community relations director in Greater Maryland. “By supporting this inventive program in collaboration with local early childhood education and neonatal care experts, we wanted to make sure that the youngest of learners have the resources they need for early literacy development.”

About the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital




The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital is recognized throughout Maryland and the mid-Atlantic region as a resource for critically and chronically ill children. UMCH physicians and staff excel in combining state-of-the-art medicine with family-centered care. More than 100 physicians specialize in understanding how to treat conditions and diseases in children, including congenital heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy and gastrointestinal disorders. The Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides the highest level of care to the tiniest newborns. To learn more about the University of Maryland Children's Hospital, please visit

About Port Discovery Children’s Museum 





As the premier children’s museum in the mid-Atlantic, Port Discovery Children’s Museum educates children and inspires life-long curiosity. Our play-to-learn philosophy opens the door for children to discover and explore the world around them and to lead smarter, healthier, more engaged lives. The Museum, a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution, offers 3 floors of educational, interactive exhibits and programs and is ranked among the Top 10 Children’s Museums in the United States by Fodor’s Travel, Forbes and Parents Magazine. Port Discovery has served over 4.2 million visitors to date. To learn more, visit

About the PNC Foundation




The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (, actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $350 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

About the University of Maryland Baltimore County



UMBC is a leading public research university known for innovative teaching, relevant research across disciplines, and a supportive community that empowers and inspires inquisitive minds. UMBC serves 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and combines the learning opportunities of a liberal arts college with the creative intensity of a leading research university. At the same time, UMBC is one of the country’s most inclusive education communities. UMBC also contributes to Maryland through strong government and industry partnerships that advance K–16 education, entrepreneurship, workforce training, and technology commercialization.