What makes Storybook different from other prison volunteer programs?
Inmates need programming and contact with the outside world to be successful
Volunteer-led programming in prisons – be it educational, vocational or religious - is a vital resource for inmates, who often lack contact with the outside world. Even though ours is not a religious program, The Storybook Project of Arkansas works with Arkansas Department of Corrections Chaplains to arrange our visits to record parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts reading a book and giving a message of care and love to the children in their lives.
We serve the whole family, not just the inmate
We believe our program is distinct because our focus is not only the betterment of the inmate. The Storybook Project of Arkansas serves inmates and their families, by facilitating communication and attachment, helping to strengthen familial bonds which will be critical when the inmate is released from prison; positive family and social relationships help to reduce recidivism. For children, having an incarcerated family member is a source of severe trauma, or Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), and Arkansas has the highest percentage of children (16%) whose parent or guardian is or was incarcerated. Being able to hear the comforting voice of their loved one over and over can help children feel more secure, when distance, economics, family dynamics or other factors prevent them from being able to visit their parent.
We help build positive connections with family members
We often hear from caretakers that they and other family members – not just the children - listen to the CD we mail home. By the time a person is incarcerated, many bridges have often been burned, so allowing the incarcerated person to send home a permanent version of their best self is invaluable in terms of softening feelings towards that person while they repay their debt to society. When the inmate is released from prison, chances are good that they will remain in contact with and perhaps be dependent to some extent upon the person who cared for their children during their incarceration, so these are relationships which matter to the whole family.
We help parents start or strengthen the good habit of reading with their children
Prison makes being a parent even more challenging. No matter how much they love and miss their children, inmates have few opportunities to be a parent and positive role model and express their love for their children. For a variety of reasons, many inmates may have never read a book to their children before they signed up for The Storybook Project. For others, participating in our program lets them pick up where they left off reading to their children, encouraging their children to love reading, and making new memories.