Bringing Christmas joy with books and blankets

Bringing Christmas joy with books and blankets

In March 2021, we began our very successful Reading Together program at the North Slave Correctional Centre (NSCC). Throughout the program, and in feedback after, we heard from many of the fathers that they would love the opportunity to send their children Christmas gifts. We agreed that this would be a great time to continue the program and were excited to head back to NSCC this fall.

Charlotte, Jeremy, Kathryn and I took turns visiting NSCC along with videographer, Hannah Eden of North Creative. We continued with the same core project elements:

  • fathers choose books for their child(ren)
  • fathers record a video for their child(ren) including reading a story and/or a bedtime message
  • fathers choose fleece sets to create a no-sew blanket for their child(ren)
  • fathers choose a stuffed animal for their child(ren)
  • fathers work with Hannah to edit their video

Each kit includes pajamas, a toothbrush and tooth paste, and a USB and DVD of the video. We packaged some of the items in child-sized backpacks as a special gift. Completed kits were then put into a Christmas gift bag, chosen by the father, along with a note from them. The kits will now be mailed out to the children to arrive in time for Christmas.

Three fathers who had taken part in the program in March joined us again, along with three new participants. The highlight of this round of the program was once again hearing about the ways fathers are trying to encourage their children’s learning and activities, even while separated. We talked about each child while working with fathers on the blankets. The feeling of calm that I felt in the room during this time truly made all of the work to coordinate this project worthwhile.

Hearing feedback from the children of the returning fathers was very powerful. One goal of this project is to support parent-child connections despite the separation. We heard that children have been snuggling with their blankets every night since the spring or are watching the video of their dad every day. I hope that the children who receive their kits next enjoy them in the same way!

I want to thank all of the participants who have joined us in this project for kicking off my holiday season in the most heart-filling way. Thank you to the hard-working staff at NSCC who did a lot of logistical work to help get this project off the ground, and to continue it. Also, a big thank you to my colleagues who jumped on board with this idea way back in January 2020 and continued to roll with all the changes we had to make. Bringing this idea to life over the last two years has been a highlight of my career.  

To read more about Reading Together, check out a previous blog here.

- Katie Johnson, Family and Community Literacy Coordinator and Program Manager

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