Opening up a world of reading opportunities for youth offenders

By Christopher Zoukis Recently librarian and literacy advocate Amy Cheney recounted an experience of teaching young offenders in a max unit how they could read to their children and/or younger siblings. One of the most poignant moments in her account,

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Colorado Prisoners Make Connection to Kids Through Innovative Reading Program

Image courtesy syracuse.comDianne Frazee-Walker

Ricardo Garcia, 28, reads to his nephew, Noah, from a Colorado prison. Garcia is incarcerated for a burglary conviction and parole violation. He has hopes that by exposing his nephew to literature, Noah will have a chance to live a different life than his uncle.

“Before, when I was out on the streets I was not a good example for him,” Garcia said. “I have a desire to be there for him. I want to be a good role model. I really hope they see that education is important and that reading is important.”

Garcia and other inmates are changing the grim statistics that children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to end up in prison.

The reading program, Read to the Children is an innovative idea directed by Diane Waldon, state librarian.

Read to the Children entails inmates who have a good behavior record reading children’s stories to their kids. The parent’s voices are recorded on a DVD and sent to their children or loved ones. The postage is paid by the participating inmates.

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