Reading Together: Bedtime stories from fathers in jail

Reading Together: Bedtime stories from fathers in jail

With International Read to Me Day coming up on March 19, it is fitting that NWT Literacy Council (NWTLC) is completing our Reading Together project this week. The project, funded by the GNWT’s Healthy Choices Fund, has been a partnership with the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC). NSCC Programs staff and NWTLC staff have worked together to create a supportive program for fathers in the facility. Over the last two weeks, 11 fathers have participated in the program, creating bedtime reading kits for 22 children.

One goal of this project is to provide parents in NSCC with an opportunity to support their child(ren)’s literacy development. A videographer joined NWTLC and NSCC staff to film fathers reading stories and recording bedtime messages to their children. The books chosen and read will be sent to each child, along with the recording, a set of pajamas, an oral hygiene kit, a copy of Our Ever Awesome NWT Brushing Song, and NWTLC family literacy resources. The fathers also created fleece no-sew blankets for their children, and chose a stuffed animal.

Fathers will also have the opportunity to continue encouraging their child(ren)’s literacy development after they receive their package. Children’s books will be available at NSCC for fathers to read during phone calls or visits with their children. Fathers who participated in our program talked about a desire to be a literacy role model for their children, even if they didn’t have a literacy role model themselves as a child. Most fathers in the program have asked that the program be facilitated again soon, and have expressed a strong gratitude for an opportunity to support their child(ren)’s literacy and love of reading.

International Read to Me Day is a day for children to remind the adults around them that reading is important, and to remind those adults that they are the children’s first teachers. Reading to children encourages them to have a love of reading themselves, and helps them to develop their language and literacy skills. Reading to a child also creates bonds, helps with co-regulation and can bring calm for both people.

Reading a children’s book can make you laugh, make you feel silly, make you feel relaxed and create a connection with the child you are reading to. I hope that we helped this to happen by facilitating the Reading Together project, and I hope that the children all feel the encouragement when they receive their kit. While incarcerated fathers cannot read to their children each day, their children can use their recording and new books to enjoy reading.

NWTLC thanks the Healthy Choices Fund for providing the financial support for this project, and NSCC staff for the logistical work required to bring this program to the facility.

  • Katie Johnson, Family and Community Literacy Coordinator

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