As someone who enjoys reading, I always looked forward to spending time reading with my children. As researchers tell us, the best way to encourage a love of reading in our children is to read with them, so I was happy to promote this form of education and enjoyment. Reading together also offered an opportunity for intimacy that was lacking in some of our other day-to-day activities.
But for incarcerated mothers, spending quality time with their children, let alone reading with them, is almost impossible.
Though these moms aren’t able to snuggle up with their children and enjoy a good book, they are still being given a chance to reach out to them and impact their lives in this very positive way, while enhancing their own rehabilitation.
Aunt Mary’s Storybook Project is just one of the initiatives of Companions Journeying Together, an organization that works to improve the relationships of incarcerated parents and their children. Through such programs, CJT promotes personal growth with literacy and communication that strengthen family bonds. The storybook project provides books and tape recorders to imprisoned moms so they can read and speak to their children. Volunteers then deliver the recordings along with copies of the books to the families.
“I really felt connected to my kids when I was reading those books. I miss them so very much and you all gave me a chance to communicate with them. So I really, really appreciate you all! I thank you from the bottom of my heart," said an inmate quoted on the CJT Website.
Another storybook project participant said “Reading them a book on tape has given me a chance to be close. It’s as if I am here with them physically, as well as mentally, and in my heart.”
Burr Ridge, Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills residents will have an opportunity to learn more about CJT at a presentation offered by the Hinsdale – Oak Brook Area American Association of University Women. AAUW Public Policy Chairwoman Kathy Zimmerman has invited Karen Hutt, chaplain of University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital and coordinator of CJT to speak about the successes of CJT programs.
In addition to Aunt Mary’s Storybook Project, CJT offers inmates a similar program for fathers - Fathers Read. They also offer Mother Love Parenting classes for women seeking to regain custody of their children, welcome home bags for women being released from prison and various opportunities to correspond with people outside of prison who support them.
Hutt will be speaking at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Hinsdale Public Library conference room, lower level. While there is no fee for this program, kindly consider bringing a new children’s book or a $10 donation to CJT.
Please RSVP by Feb. 11 to H.O.B.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vision of Companions Journeying Together is for a society that lives by the principles of restorative justice. DuPage County Jail is among the correctional centers it serves. To learn more about CJT and its programs visit their Website.