Workshops in Prisons

'Bedtime Stories is a worthwhile and important initiative and helped [us] to reconnect with young loved ones that were all really missing the power of words to connect...our words flew over the prison gates. I hope this important work can continue to reach other mums and dads imprisoned.' Prisoner, HMP Drake Hall

The Literary Festival is a registered charity and part of our charitable aims is to focus on encouraging children to read because of the immense benefits it brings in terms of well-being, literacy and life-skills.

We are making a particular effort to encourage parents to read with their children, because it is during this valuable time together that parents and carers bond with their children, help reinforce literacy skills, and gift them a passion they will have for life. It has long been recognised that reading and reading with and to children has immense benefits for well-being, literacy and educational outcomes. A report, conducted by The Reading Agency and funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, found that reading for pleasure ‘improved social capital for children and young people and [benefitted] parent-child communication’.

Put simply, children who read for pleasure, especially with their parents, are happier, healthier and do better in life than those who don’t. To this end we have run several story sharing projects in schools.

However, when parents and children are separated because the parent is in prison this makes family bonding extremely challenging. Parents who are able to keep bonds with their children are more likely to have a better outcome in terms of rehabilitation, and are less likely to re-offend. After talking with experts, we realised the value of helping parents write a story for their children which will help to bridge the communication gap between parent and child, and help boost the self-esteem and positive outlook of the parent.

Throughout 2017 and 2018 we will be delivering workshops to women's prisons in the UK and working with the charity Storybook Mums so the women can record their stories for their children to enjoy over and over again at home. we hope this will go some way to bridging the gap at an essential time in a child's emotional development.

Feedback from Women in HMP Peterborough, HMP East Sutton Park and HMP Drake Hall

'I loved today's workshop. I wasn't sure if I would like it or if i could do it as my son is 13 and I don't see him much, but I ended up writing almost an entire novel and I am very proud of the finished piece. I hope to read it to him over the phone. Highly recommend it to others.'

'I have really enjoyed the writing class. It really got my imagination working and I've now almost got an original story for me daughter! Hollie and Annie were amazing....they never made anyone feel like they couldn't do it. It's been a day of escapism and I've loved every minute.'

'I felt totally relaxed and proud that I was given the opportunity to write a story for my children. Both Annie and Smriti were brilliant and non judgemental. They taught us and encouraged us to write a story and truly made us believe we could. I loved it!'

'It was really good fun and I would never have believed I could write this story, but I’m really pleased with what I have achieved. I’m proud of my stories and I think my daughters will enjoy them.'

Male prisoners at HMP Maidstone

‘I can say it’s the best day of mine in prison and I learnt how to write a story for my kids who I miss a lot. In the morning I was worried whether I would be able to write anything but at the ens of the session I actually wrote a four page story.’

‘It was probably the best of my days [behind] bars. This workshop has improved my self confidence and skills in creating my stories. Great job!’

‘I think for guardians and parents in prison, this is a must do workshop.’

We would like to thank the William A Cadbury Charitable Trust and Private Benefactors for supporting this work.

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