Turning Pages, Inc. is a family reunification and family literacy program for incarcerated fathers and their children. Since 2009, Turning Pages provides multiple opportunities
for incarcerated fathers to read with their school-aged children at the Baltimore County Detention Center. Experienced classroom teachers and librarians volunteer to staff the program. The men participate in four Fathers’ Workshops that provide information about the importance of reading to children and tips for reading aloud. They choose from a wide range of picture books to read to their children during four Family Reading Club evenings on alternating weeks.
Unlike regular, “through-the-glass” visits, the children may sit on their fathers’ laps, hug, and chat privately. After reading together, the children and dads enjoy follow-up literacy-craft activities. The children keep each book they’ve read with their dad as well as free books from Turning Pages’ “Choose Your Own” library, for a total of 20-25 books for each. While dads and children read together, the moms and other caregivers gather for informal discussions about supporting their children’s literacy development. These are lead by professional educators and librarians – all volunteers.
The Turning Pages men are re-empowered as fathers. The children and caregivers are reassured of the father’s presence in their lives. All family members become more engaged in reading together and for their own pleasure. For many inmates, reading to their children is an authentic way to improve their own reading skills at or near their own reading level. Many come to enjoy reading for the first time as adults and realize the importance of developing strong reading skills.
By enjoying being together through reading together, families create a “pleasure connection” with books and with each other. While in the program, many Turning Pages families report reading together more frequently, and expect that Dad will continue the practice once at home – an expectation that is, indeed, often fulfilled.
“Without the Turning Pages program I would never have picked up a book and read it to or with my children. I never associated books with fun. I also did not realize that my children would enjoy reading with me so much.” (Gordon)
Donations of new and gently used books and funds for special book purchases are welcomed!
Flo Kennedy-Stack, Program Director