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It’s widely known that children with incarcerated parents face a big education gap. In my last blog I explained why. One of the best ways to help close that gap so these children can learn and achieve is to boost their reading skills.

Oklahoma Messages’ Literacy and Prevention program does this by going to prisons and filming parents reading books they’ve selected for their kids’ interests. We are just about to start our Christmas filming projects so that hundreds of children in our state will get to have daily read-aloud story time with their parents—even though they’re behind bars.

Children whose moms and dads leave for prison don’t have this opportunity! Their parents are gone for years at a time. Yet these kids desperately need the benefits of good reading skills and they cherish every book and video we send them.

At Oklahoma Messages Project, we’ve offered countless parents the chance to read books aloud as we filmed their videos and mailed the book and DVD to the kids—so they can read along every day. As they do, their reading skills improve, their self-esteem grows and they do better in school.  We’ve served over 7,000 children in Oklahoma since we started 6 years ago—but there are thousands of kids still needing our program!

We are seeing reading skills IMPROVE for many, many children who participate in the Messages Project.

Here are five great reasons why our Literacy & Prevention programs are important to help fill the wide educational gap these kids have:

  • Reading is foundational to success in school! After 3rd grade, success in every subject depends on strong reading skills. If kids aren’t becoming better readers, they start falling behind in school. But they thrive when they can read well.
  • The Department of Justice has reported that the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence and crime is welded to READING FAILURE.
  • What kids learn when parents read aloud is vital: Basic speech and communication abilities, a longer attention span, stronger concentration, and better memory—all skills children need to do well in school and life.
  • Not just when children are young, but throughout their growing up years, they benefit from sharing books and reading along with parents. Their comprehension grows; they develop a stronger bond with parents, and they develop logical thinking and a sense of story.
  • Children who are read to by parents who do it in a fun way grow to love books. A whole new world is opened to them leading to a lifelong love of reading. We teach the parents how to read interactively to engage their children.
  • Even via video, reading aloud with parents is effective and powerful! That’s why the U.S. military lets parents record bedtime stories and send books, from anywhere in the world.