The Literacy Factor
A Spotlight on Facilitators Making a Difference
Encouraging literacy doesn't have to be difficult and is a natural add-on to the InsideOut Dad™ program. Following is a spotlight on Center for Youth and Family, who has seen great success with emphasizing literacy.
For more ideas and activities for your facility's parent-child visitation days, check out the Dadventures™ program, filled with fun character-building exercises that will also help to develop literary and verbal skills in your inmate population, as well as their children. You can make an impact too!
Organization Name: Center for Youth and Families
Location: Little Rock, AR
Facilitator: Reta Johnson
Here's what Reta had to say about Center for Youth and Families' Prison Program:
We have provided parenting education in the Arkansas Department of Correction for 19 years and have operated a successful Even Start Literacy program in the McPherson and Wrightsville Units for the past seven years, and three years at Hawkins Unit for women.
The program is well received by the inmates. One inmate at Wrightsville Unit wrote: “Once upon at time in my life I had a lot of bitterness, hate and failure on the inside. I hated myself for leaving my kids out there in such a merciless world all alone. I didn’t have any understanding of how to be a father or did I even understand life itself. See, I never had a father or a mother in my life so I do understand how it feels not to have that special love. I don’t want my kids to miss out on that love...So this is why I have chose to be a part of this blessed program. This parenting program has help me to understand what a father really is and what the role of a father has to do with his kids as well as with his family. This program has help me so much, I now realize that it’s not all about me or anyone else for that matter but first and foremost my kids...This is a very important program for myself and all others who would like and should stand up and be a father. Because of this program, I and other guys who attend this program has learned to be very creative in spending quality time with our kids now. So, I would like to say thanks to whomever came up with this great and wonderful program. Without the help of this program I would probably not have established such a warm and loving relationship with my kids.”
We offer parenting classes as part of the Even Start program...we expect to serve up to 250 fathers each year using the InsideOut Dad™ curriculum. Offering parenting classes at a number of correctional facilities allows incarcerated parents to learn appropriate parenting techniques and begin to meet requirements of Even Start so they can participate once they are transferred...This process works as a “feeder system” to recruit incarcerated parents who want to be involved in the program.
We are partnering with the Arkansas Department of Correction, the Central Arkansas Library System and the Arkansas Head Start collaborative to carry out all aspects of the Even Start program. The Central Arkansas Library System, the largest library system in Arkansas, partners with The Centers to design specialized interactive literacy activities for this target population. They provide access to their resources and technical assistance for our program as well as encouraging our program participants to use branch locations for activities like story time, summer book club and other youth activities.
Our qualified staff selects a book of the month each month, which is incorporated in the book club segment of parenting class, parent-child interactive literacy time during Special Visitation and on Literacy Saturdays for caregivers and children. For instance, Guess How Much I Love You, a children’s book by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, speaks to [the] deep love that exists between parent and child. This book was used to illustrate concepts in parenting class. Parents read it on their own, wrote a dedication in it, and then gave the books to their children during the Special Visitation’s parent-child interactive literacy time. This is one of very few opportunities for parents to give their children a gift. Activities during the Special Visitation for this book included creating a board game, reading the book and having the children retell the story in their own words, making a heart mobile for the children to tell them how much they are loved, creating hats for the “bunny hop with poems,” and hopscotch with words ending in "-op."
We videotape parents reading appropriate children's books and give these videos to their children. Every parent in our program has the opportunity to speak to their children and read to their children through this “virtual parenting” at least once or twice a year. We also conduct home visits at least quarterly and assist with literacy activities between the caregiver and children as well as addressing access for adult education or early childhood education.