Building Bridges Behind Bars: Read to Me Program
Indiana State Library & Indiana Dept. of Correction
About the Program
The Read-to-Me literacy program, a cooperative effort between the Indiana State Library Development Office (LDO) and the state’s correctional facility libraries, began in the fall of 2000 to enable incarcerated parents an opportunity to share the joys of reading with their children. Through this program, offenders discover the personal value and personal connections for both the child and themselves in developing literacy skills. Parents, regardless of their educational levels, become their child’s first teachers.
The program has four primary objectives:
- To break the cycle of incarceration and low literacy
- To educate parents to become their child’s first teacher
- To instruct parents in the use of children’s books to teach the children in their lives
- To make personal connections with the children during the period of incarceration
Currently, the Indiana State Library Development Office provides children’s books, cassette tapes, CD-ROMS, CD Sleeves, mailing envelopes and postage for mailing the tapes/CD-ROMs with cases, and books. Grant funds, publisher donations, and local donations enable the program to continue. The library welcomes new and gently used books to assist in the success of this program. Institutional librarians request books for children up to age 10 for the offenders to select. Offenders work with the facility librarians, teachers, other facility employees, or volunteers to record the books they select. They complete a Family History Survey that addresses their reading experiences. The recorded books and surveys are returned to the Library Development Office. A letter acknowledging the collaboration between the State Library and the correctional facility is sent to the child.
A follow-up survey is completed and returned to the LDO after children receive the packages and communicate about the gift with their incarcerated parents or other relatives. The surveys were included in the program to measure the reactions of the incarcerated parents and the responses of the children.
To Do Well In Life, You Have To 'Read Well'.
If you work with youth or have them in your life, please take time to listen to this moving segment from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/10/144944598/to-do-well-in-life-you-have-to-read-well Below are some responses from offenders “in their own words” to survey question 4: Please tell how the Read-To-Me Program has made a difference in your life.
- “It let me communicate with my child & my nephew & my brother I think it’s a wonderful program for us to have so we can have a relationship with children.”
- “Yes it has changed my life because, me and my little brother didn’t have nothing in common and now we do! I haven’t seen him 2 ½ years and the first time I saw him he talked about the book!”
- “It allows me to do something for my son, even though I’m not there.”
- “Gives me the chance for my daughter to hear my voice before she goes to sleep at night, and also to hear my voice anytime she wants to.”
- “I feel like this will help my son to not only start to read, but he will hear my voice, and recognize it when it is being read to him. It is nice to have opportunities like this. Thank you.”
- ““When I was at home I use to read to my sons every night. Because you’ve given me the chance to read to them again, I know the peace and joy it brings to their hearts and mine also.”
- “This program helps my kids get use to my voice. It also teaching me some of the parenting skills I need to help raise my kids, which I did not have before.”
- “It helps show them and me to express our love for each other and it’s a bonding. Thank you for letting me do this.”
- “Well, let me start by saying, I know for a fact that reading makes you smarter. I have a friend who read to her children from the time they were in her belly until they were teenagers and the kids are brilliant. I never was read to that much and I would’ve loved to of been. This is a great thing that you’re doing for these kids. I really appreciate it and I know the kids do as well. Thank you!”
For more information about the program or how your library can reach out to offenders in nearby facilities, contact Terry Black at 317-232-3697, 800-451-6028 (Indiana only), FAX: 317-232-0002, or statewideservices@library.IN.gov.