Mothers connecting with their children… a silly, unnecessary idea for a program… unless the mother is incarcerated. What is normally natural and comfortable becomes an unfulfilled longing. “Read Me a Story” provides a moment of connection and joy between the incarcerated mom and her children.
Speak Up for Hope took this program to a central Florida women’s prison on April 1. Because our staff (Carol & Gene Kent, Bonnie & Ron Emmorey, and Kim Mattenly) was pre-approved, our equipment list (video cameras, tripods, lights, computer) was pre-approved, and our goals were pre-approved – and supported, we were quickly brought into the prison visitation area by the chaplain and introduced to the 13 women who had applied to participate.
We hoped that in our four-hour time block we could produce 13 video messages, up to 15 minutes long, that we would deliver from the mother to her children.
As Gene set up the photo studio, Carol explained the program. The mothers would talk to their children, remembering a special moment, recognizing special abilities and achievements, apologizing for not being with them now, and thanking the current caregivers. Large cue cards would help them move smoothly from topic to topic.
Then came the book selection. The mothers were able to choose from about 25 books we brought in, and they enjoyed finding just the right one for their children. We were prepared to coach them with the reading, but to our delight, most of the women were good readers and were excited about this opportunity. All of them wrote a note to their child/children in the front of the book.
Once the taping started, the mothers needed far less help than we expected, very naturally talking to their children. Some sang a song and some prayed. The whole group, mothers and Speak Up for Hope volunteers, encouraged and supported each other to a success beyond our expectations.
With help from the entire team of volunteers, the DVDs and books are already on their way to the children. We are rejoicing and looking forward to our next “Read Me a Story” event.
By Ron Emmorey