For the last two years or more Spurgeons family services worker Diane Sparkes has run a reading scheme that enables dads in Norwich prison to share bedtime stories with their children. The StoryBook Dads scheme is another example of Spurgeons’ commitment to support dads wanting to be better fathers… whatever their situation
There’s something very special about a parent and child sharing a book at bedtime. For the child, it can open up the world of the imagination… and might just form a lifelong reading habit.
But I believe there’s a particular magic about the StoryBook Dads scheme run by Spurgeons’ Prisoner and Family Support Service at HMP Norwich. The Norwich scheme has been going for 12 years and is proving more popular now than ever.
Over the past three years alone, dads at the prison have featured on more than 300 recordings of them reading story books to their children. These recordings have each been put on a CD that the children can then listen to before they go to sleep. Each child is also given a copy of the book.
Every reading is sent to the national charity StoryBook Dads, who add in music and sound effects to create a professionally packaged CD. StoryBook Dads works in around 100 prisons to help more than 5,000 prisoners every year record bedtime stories for their children.
One child whose dad recorded a story for her was quoted as saying: “I miss my Daddy… when I feel lonely, I listen to my CD and hearing his voice makes me feel better.”
So we were thrilled when StoryBook Dads, which was introduced 16 years ago for prisoners and their families and is currently run from HMP Channing’s Wood, in Devon, made a special achievement award to the Spurgeons’ scheme at HMP Norwich.
Sharon Berry, who founded the StoryBook Dads charity, said: “It can be quite difficult to run this scheme in prisons because of security and regime restrictions and each establishment may have its own set of challenges. Yet HMP Norwich has been able to successfully deliver Storybook Dads for many years and that means a lot of children’s lives have been made happier because of it.”
With Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo series proving the most popular reads, as well as other classics like Judith Kerr’s ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, recording the CD can often be a memorable and emotional experience for the dads.
One dad told me: “Making a recording is very important to me because it means I can still have some connection with my children while I am serving a prison sentence… I used to read to them all the time. This means I can still sort of be there for the children… being able to record a story for them really means a lot… so thank you.”
I love how the project often shows a different, more caring side to many of the men in the prison. Seeing a generally, shall we say, quiet and serious dad come to life reading something like ‘You and Me Little Bear’, then get quite emotional over it, has been a real eye opener for me. The scheme is something I personally would love to see continue… more importantly, I think the dads and their children would too.
Diane Sparkes – Spurgeons Prisoner and Family Support Service, HMP Norwich