According to the National Resource Center on Children & Families of the Incarcerated at Rutgers University, more than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. What’s more, half of those children are under the age of ten.
The numbers are startling.
A program based out of Austin, Texas, however, has found a way for imprisoned mothers to stay connected to their children - by recording themselves reading aloud.
The Women’s Storybook Project is a volunteer program for women who are imprisoned at Gatesville and Plane/Henley prisons, and is geared toward connecting mothers with their children.
How does it work?
Volunteers travel to the prison, help the mother choose a book, then record the mother reading aloud. The mom also records a short message at the end of the reading, and the book and recording are sent to the child.
“After so long you become Mom only by title when someone else cares daily for your children,” wrote Lauri Arrington, a former Storybook participant, in the New York Times.
“What I remember most was an unshakable joy of knowing as long as I was reading that book, I was Mom again. It was surreal knowing my daughter would receive and hold in her hands the very same book that I held in my hands that day. We would occupy the same space even if it was at different times.”
Arrington, who was released two years ago, read 14 books to her children during her five-year imprisonment.
The program has inspired similar initiatives since its beginnings in 2003, reports Upworthy. State facilities in Iowa, Maryland, and New York have also started storybook programs, including both mothers and fathers.