Storytelling Dads (and Mums) program

In Canada, the US, and the UK, several initiatives have been developed for inmates to record themselves reading stories out loud to their children. The recording (either in CD or DVD form) and the physical book are then sent to the child, who can listen or watch while looking at the book. The inmates, who are often in communities far away from their kids, find that it is a way to stay connected with their children and show their love and affection even when they cannot be physically present. Parents can enhance the interactive feel of reading to their children by asking the child questions about what they think is happening on the page or asking the child to tell part of the story.

This is an excellent example of a family literacy approach: although there are definite benefits to the child (improved school readiness, increased literacy or pre-literacy skills), there are also benefits to the parent’s literacy.

Family literacy programs are seen as particularly effective because they can address the literacy needs of the child and parent at the same time. In addition, parents who may be reluctant to work on their own literacy skills are often more willing to do it if they can see direct benefits to their children’s literacy. By focusing on the children primarily, parents have time to adjust to the environment of literacy learning and get comfortable with the idea of working on their own skills.

Some examples of storytelling programs for incarcerated parents:

Storybook Dads [and Mums] (UK)

Storybook Dads (Canada)

Books Behind Bars (US)

Breaking Barriers with Books (US)

Reading With My Father (Australia): in this program, the child is supported to make a return recording for the parent

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