Storybook Dads, the Devon-based charity that works to support prisoners in maintaining relationships with their children through stories and reading, has received £1,000 from fellow charity Libraries Unlimited.
Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited, Ciara Eastell OBE and Vice Chair of the Board of trustees, David Lockwood, visited the charity at its headquarters at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Channings Wood to present the team with the cheque and have a tour of the facilities.
The money was raised by Ciara and David last year when they both took part in sponsored runs. Ciara completed her first half marathon in Taunton on 8th April whilst David completed the Rome marathon the following day.
Ciara and David met with Storybook Dads founder and Chief Executive Sharon Berry and heard about the charity’s work across the UK, helping male and female prisoners to record stories and make personalised comics, pop-up books, calendars and storybooks for their children.
Sharon established the charity in 2003 in HMP Dartmoor whilst tutoring and volunteering at the prison. During this time she witnessed first-hand how hard it was for prisoners to connect with their families and the impact this had on both the prisoners and the children.
Sharon said: “I could see how difficult it was for prisoners to miss so much of their children’s lives and also the effect on children of not seeing their mum or dad. Prison visits and phone calls can often be pressured and awkward, and because they haven’t seen each other, they don’t have a lot to talk about together. To me, the idea of prisoners reading classic children’s stories and magical tales to their children seemed perfect. I went about recording people reading children’s classics and then burning discs and sending them home to families, so they could all share a bedtime story together. This soon expanded into DVDs, so we can film prisoners in colourful and playful sets using puppets to bring stories alive.
She continued: “We’ve now expanded into comics, pop-up books and more, so parents create their own personalised stories to send home. We’ve seen the positive impact this has had on the prisoners themselves, and we know through the feedback that we receive that it’s making a huge difference to the lives of children and young people whose parents are in prison. It gives them a connection, something to talk about and something to share.”
In 2014, Sharon moved the charity from Dartmoor to HMP Channings Wood, and has built a team of nine members of staff, supported by 16 prisoners who help with recording and editing CDs and DVDs. Storybook Dads now works with 100 prisons across the UK, producing more than 5,500 CDs and DVDs each year.
Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs 50 libraries in Devon, four mobile libraries and four libraries in Torbay, has also been responsible for delivering library services in Devon’s three prisons; HMP Exeter, HMP Channings Wood and HMP Dartmoor.
Ciara said: “Through our work with Devon’s prison libraries, we have known about and supported Storybook Dads for some time. A number of prison library staff are involved in recording stories, and Alan Crickmore, a former prisoner, spoke passionately at our staff conference last year about his time working with Storybook Dads whilst in prison. We wanted to do something to help even more children and young people benefit from this service, and to improve the relationships between prisoners and their families.
She continued: “Books, reading and stories are central to the work that we do throughout our 54 libraries and four mobile libraries and we know from national research how much a love of reading can improve children’s life chances. Storybook Dads not only helps connect families, it helps to promote a shared love of stories, something that will have a long-lasting impact on the children involved. The half marathon was tough, but it’s absolutely worth it to be able to support Sharon and all of her team to continue helping more people across the country.”
Sharon Berry added: “We are so grateful to receive this donation from Libraries Unlimited. Supporting prisoners isn’t always a popular cause with the general public, so we’re hugely appreciative for any support we receive. The money will make a lot of children and families very happy and enable us to continue supporting thousands of people each year.”