All literature, and literacy, is born from the human need to tell stories, to tell stories about one self or about others, to tell stories about the world to better understand our existence, the others and the universe we live in. All the stories, the myths, the fables and the novels, including those addressed to children are, in fact, the result of this wish and this basic need: they help us to live, to survive; they help children to grow up and develop.
I became a certified Motheread/Fatheread Instructor in 2006. In an adult male prison, we called this program Fatheread. Getting this program up and running was a challenge in the prison system! Especially with a limited budget.
This was a program for fathers with children under the age of ten years. Inmates would submit an application for consideration and after verification of their children, current disciplinary violations and ensuring the children or child were not victims of their crime, I would select 10-participants from each unit to participate.
These inmates would receive five children’s books and we begin the process of meeting weekly for six weeks to learn to read these children’s stories using expression and character voices. When the inmate felt “ready” I would record them on DVD reading the books to their children. They made craft items that highlighted the book themes. When all the “items” were ready, they sent the books, DVD and craft items home to their children.
This program was available to the inmates at no cost, with the exception of mailing the items home. The inmates have “homework” assignments and reports to write. For example, one of the books used could be “Amelia’s Road.” A suggested the adult book would John Grisham’s novel, “A Painted House” as it is amazingly similar.
Funding for this program came from the “community.” After my first run, one family was so impressed with the program; they donated $500 to keep it up and running. A local community business donated another $500 and I was able to purchase the children’s books through the Scholastic Book literacy project at a substantial savings. My husband and I purchase the mini RW/DVDs to record the inmates and usually the art supplies for their crafts. You can’t put a price on learning, reading, and parenting when it comes to inmates and their children.
Motheread was developed in North Carolina and was primarily used in the Women’s Prisons. Over the years it developed into a more broad based literacy program, sometimes being utilized in preschool environments and allowing the mothers to be trained.
The Motheread/Fatheread curriculum uses children’s books, and adult poems and narratives to teach literacy skills to adults, with an emphasis on developing skills in all four areas of literacy: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Additionally, the lessons help parents understand the importance of reading regularly to their children. Parents not only learn the “why” of reading with their children, but also the “how.”
Some of the men became very emotional when recording their DVD’s. I allowed them all to add a personal video note to the child/children. Some would expound upon the story theme to relate an even deeper, more personal lesson or family value to their child/children.
These men valued the opportunity to participate in this program and did not jeopardize it by stealing from the program. They also knew if they had any major disciplinary “tickets” while taking the course, they would be summarily dropped from it.
It was a labor intensive program, but well worth the time and cost. Literacy programs are worthy endeavors.
~The Prison Librarian