Connecting—perhaps for the first time—with their children, eight men at the Eric M. Taylor Center, one of nine jails on Rikers Island, completed a five-week literacy course this fall called "Daddy and Me." They learned to read with expression, to fine-tune their voice to the story and then, satisfied with their story-reading skills, they recorded themselves reading children’s books for their sons and daughters at home. Although such programs have been tried with female inmates in prisons across the country since at least 1996, this was the first time such a program had been tried at Rikers.
After practicing the stories, the men recorded them onto DVDs. Each DVD has a photo image of Daddy burned into the top, together with the name of the book. What a cool thing. What a great way to help a man's young child or children keep Daddy's memory alive.
"Daddy and Me" was financed with about $3,800 from a family literacy grant from the state of New York. Nick Higgins, supervising librarian at the New York Public Library’s correctional services program, ran the program. On the first day, Mr. Higgins told the inmates, “Our objective is to hopefully change the attitude that some of you might have about reading to children, that reading is Mom’s job.”
While working for and with some of my military families who have either Daddy and/or Mommy in a war zone, I encourage frequent Skype visits with webcams. Almost every notebook computer has one built in these days. It's especially important for little tykes. Any good early childhood development specialist will tell you that short frequent visits are the way to help children between the ages of 1 1/2 and 3 remember an absent parent. Reading stories, helping with homework, asking about the child's day . . . all of these things are important parent-child interactions that will help children deal with their parent's absence.
Wouldn't it be great if somehow, someway, we could get a foundation to fund such a program for our service members around the world? Creating memories for children is important—particularly when there is a risk that Mommy or Daddy will never return.
See the NY Times article here: Santos, Fernanda, "Daddy, Read for Me." Dec. 24, 2010. A one-time sign-up may be required.
See the film here:
Thanks to Paula Aylward for the heads-up on this story.