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Introduction

Boost for prison reading project takes more dads and children into a world of gruffaloes, moles and giraffes

Boost for prison reading project takes more dads and children into a world of gruffaloes, moles and giraffes

A new partnership between a prison reading scheme promoted by Spurgeons Children’s Charity, a community children’s book group, a local book shop and East Sussex County Council has proved a major boost in spreading the joy of reading between fathers in prison and their children.

The StoryBook Dads programme has been run by the library at HMP Lewes, in Sussex, for nine years but now Lewes Children’s Book Group has come in with some funding to help the library enable more children and families supported by the Spurgeons Visitor Centre to take home a wider range of books.

This very welcome intervention has been further boosted by Lewes bookshop Bags of Books, which is offering books at discounted rates to make the funding stretch further.

CD and book for each child

Under the StoryBook Dads programme, dads in the prison have the opportunity to record a story book for their child and have it put on a CD for the child to listen to at home. Each child is also given a copy of the book.

With an average of one story being recorded by a dad every week, Julia Donaldson has proved the programme’s most popular author, with The Gruffalo and The Highway Rat the favourite reads, while Werner Holzwarth’s, The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business is always in demand.

Another popular name on the programme is locally based Guy Parker Rees, illustrator of best-selling picture books such as Giraffes Can’t Dance, who has worked with some of the dads at HMP Lewes.

“It was lovely for him to hear his Dad’s voice”

Many of the mums whose children have had a CD made for them have given the scheme a big thumbs up: “It was lovely because they were his favourite books”; “Getting the book as well was a really nice touch”; and, “It was lovely for him to hear his Dad’s voice” have been some of the comments received.

“We’re really excited by this new partnership with Lewes Children’s Book Group and Bags of Books which is helping to spread the love of reading and sharing books amongst dads and their children, despite the prison bars,” said Sam Hart, Spurgeons Family Service Manager at HMP Lewes.

“This is so important to the children’s education, their emotional wellbeing and to maintaining family ties.”