Women’s Storybook Project of Texas is a non-profit, interfaith program that connects children with their incarcerated mothers through literature. Volunteers travel to Texas female prisons to record offenders as they read stories to their children. The mothers also give short messages and the CDs and new books are then mailed to the children. This gives them a chance to hear their mothers’ voices while the mothers are away.
It is a simple idea with a big impact! The children are connecting with their mothers through listening and reading good children’s literature. The mothers’ self-esteem increases because they know that they are doing something positive for their children. Since participation in the program is earned by good behavior for 90 days, the behavior at the prisons has improved
One of the long-term goals of Women’s Storybook Project is to help decrease the rate of recidivism. Connecting the children and mothers would prevent the mothers from returning to prison. Another goal is to prevent incarceration of the children whose parents have been in prison. This is a very high statistic.
The idea for WSP originated in 1993 with a program founded by Lutheran Social Services in Chicago. Judith Dullnig was inspired by friends in Louisville, KY who had a similar program. After about a year of research, connecting with a social worker within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, finding volunteers and searching for funding, Storybook Project began within the outreach program at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Austin, TX. Five volunteers carried four tape recorders, 25 new books, cassette tapes, and padded mailers to the Hilltop facility in Gatesville, TX in 2003. The Gatesville area has six female prisons and has the largest number of female offenders in one area in the entire country.
Our congregation decided to donate to this important project for our August Mission of the Month. Pictured below is Susan Hunter who organized this month’s mission and made sure the books were delivered to the volunteers. Just a sampling of books is shown in these pictures…you can see a box in the pew behind which contained many more books.