“This is the closest I come to tucking my children in at night,” an incarcerated mother said, as she wrote a note to her son in a book she'd chosen specially for him. He used to have no books of his own at home, but now he has a collection of books hand-picked by his mom, with personal notes from her written inside, thanks to the Children's Literacy Foundation's ("CLiF") Children of Prison Inmates program.
The program hosts regular seminars for inmates at partnering prisons to learn about the importance of reading and get tips for reading with their kids, whether in person or over the phone or Skype visits. At the end of each seminar, inmates choose new books for all the children in their life and write notes in them, and CLiF mails them to their kids. CLiF also donates new children's book libraries to the prison visiting rooms for family visits, and hosts special family storytelling events with professional authors and storytellers during prison visiting days. Inmates are also able to record themselves reading the books, and CLiF sends the recordings home so they can "read with" their kids. For the millions of children who have a parent in prison, this program allows them to stay connected to Mom and Dad, even while they're far away.
In the words of one inmate: "This program has given me something as precious as freedom. It has connected a little girl with her father and created a bond that will last a lifetime." A strong connection to an incarcerated parent isn't the only thing these books provide; Research shows that children with a parent in prison are at high risk of developing low literacy skills. CLiF's Children of Prison Inmates program builds bridges between inmates and their children, and gives the kids the tools they need to learn, succeed, and develop a love of reading.