Colorado Prisoners Make Connection to Kids Through Innovative Reading Program

Image courtesy syracuse.comDianne Frazee-Walker

Ricardo Garcia, 28, reads to his nephew, Noah, from a Colorado prison. Garcia is incarcerated for a burglary conviction and parole violation. He has hopes that by exposing his nephew to literature, Noah will have a chance to live a different life than his uncle.

"Before, when I was out on the streets I was not a good example for him," Garcia said. "I have a desire to be there for him. I want to be a good role model. I really hope they see that education is important and that reading is important."

Garcia and other inmates are changing the grim statistics that children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to end up in prison.

The reading program, Read to the Children is an innovative idea directed by Diane Waldon, state librarian.

Read to the Children entails inmates who have a good behavior record reading children’s stories to their kids. The parent’s voices are recorded on a DVD and sent to their children or loved ones. The postage is paid by the participating inmates.

Seven Romero, 43, father of seven children, is one of hundreds of inmates from 15 prisons throughout Colorado participating in the program. Romero is serving time for drugs and weapons charges. He believes having an opportunity to keep in touch with his children has a positive influence on their lives.

Eric Miller is serving his sentence in Sterling, Colorado for an armed home invasion. He has two four-year old children from different mothers who are too young to remember him. Reading “Duck on a Bike” by David Shannon gives his children a chance to hear his voice. Even if his four-year-olds don’t remember what their daddy looks like, at least they can hear his voice.  

Garcia has witnessed such extraordinary results from Read to the Children that he anticipates the program will expand to more prisons. Garcia also has a vision of Read to the Children having an impact on more child friendly visiting areas in prisons. 

Fortunately, rehabilitative and occupational programs are up and running again after the death of Colorado Corrections Chief, Tom Clements.

Read to the Children recently shared recordings of incarcerated parents reading to their children in recognition of Colorado Literacy week.    

Not only does inmate participation in the reading program inspire parents to lead more productive lives, but the children are encouraged by knowing their parents are still there for them.

Read to the Children has residual benefits because not only does it affect the recidivism rate for parents, but their children are less likely to become incarcerated.