Penny Garnsworthy, freelance writer and editor of the CBCA Tas Newsletter, highlights the far-ranging benefits of Hobart's Risdon Prison's reading programs.
It isn’t just children who benefit from children’s books. Since 2008, Hobart’s Risdon Prison has been running the No Bars on Books literacy program, which was launched by Speech Pathology Australia. Inmates at the prison are allowed to record themselves reading picture books aloud and the CDs, as well as the books, are then shared with their children and families.
Rosalie Martin, the chair of the Tasmanian Branch of Speech Pathology Australia and Simon Burnett, Risdon Prison’s literacy co-ordinator, came up with the idea. They were looking for a way to connect prisoners to their families whilst behind bars.
Rosalie says: ‘The impact is enormous. We know that babies’ brains and children’s brains and their relationships are all developed by interconnectivity between parent and child.’ She said the opportunity to be able to hear their parent’s voice, while separated from them, was important to develop a connection that could change the social, educational and employment outcomes for the child later in life.
But it isn’t just the children who are benefiting from this program. Another program at the prison, Just Sentences, is helping to raise the level of literacy in our prison population. By helping inmates to process sounds and crack the code of language on a page, Rosalie says inmates' reading is improving in just three to four months.
She says: ‘When we have access to different kinds of information it opens up new doors and new worlds.’
What wonderful programs and it all started with a picture book!
The 'No Bars on Books' program is open to book donations to support their program. Details are available at Speech Pathology Australia.
If you’d like more information go to: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/all-latest-news/2064-more-news and http://www.chattermatters.com.au/