Books with well-written stories have the power to unlock a child's God-given imagination and create deep bonds between the child and their parent—even if that parent is behind bars.
In Prison Fellowship®'s Storybook Dads program at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Richmond, Texas, incarcerated men have the opportunity to connect with their children by recording and sending audio of them reading aloud to their children. The program started in 2008 as part of the Prison Fellowship Academy™. Prisoners operate the program with the oversight of staff and volunteers.
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
Here's how Storybook Dads works. Men enter a recording studio inside the prison at a scheduled time, choose from one of the many donated children's books, then sit down in front of a microphone and read with enthusiasm. The dads are coached when necessary and encouraged often. Volunteer prisoners man the sound equipment and later enhance the recordings with sound effects.
Volunteers then burn CDs of the recorded audio and place them in personalized cases. Dads send the audio recording and a copy of the book to their child as a birthday present or Christmas gift.
According to Darryl Brooks, the Academy program director, about 75 percent of the men in the Carol Vance Unit participate in the program. Volunteers have sent out 2,500 CDs and books over the lifetime of the Storybook Dads program. Children treasure the recordings.
Brooks says, "A lot of the kids wake up in the morning and go to bed at night wanting to listen to their dad read to them." One dad participating in the program said his little girl was so excited about her CD that she immediately sat down and wrote him a letter. She wrote that she can't stop listening to it.
One father who is incarcerated at Carol Vance and volunteers with the Storybook Dads program, said
I myself sent my son a CD for Christmas. He told me it was the best gift he got last year. That's saying a lot amongst remote control cards, X-Box games, and glowing tennis shoes. Not only was he happy and excited but my wife was as well, as she read along with my voice and watched the smile on his face. It shows that time and consideration is always more valuable than money in a child's eyes."
Through the Storybook Dads program, fathers are building memories for their children that will last a lifetime.
THE POWER OF A FATHER’S VOICE
One man involved in creating the recordings said that just as reading the Bible helps him feel close to God, when the children hear their fathers' voices, it helps them feel loved and treasured.
Another father involved with the program said, "these CDs can eternalize the soothing voice of a father. When that same father is missed on Father's Day, his little girl is able to listen to his excited chatter as he reads a Dr. Seuss book. It's a small way to remind the child that their father loves them."
Each recording that allows a child to hear loving words from their father is a picture of their eternal Father whose loving voice is eternalized in His Word.