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So says an interesting article by Gail Rebuck .
She writes about the importance of literacy wth an emphasis on the dire effects of adults who do not have the skills to access knowledge and information.
I spent some years working in an FE college. I taught English as an Additional Language to Vietmenese boat people and basic skills to apprentices (that was a baptism of fire, believe me!). On 2 evenings a week I offered literacy and numeracy tuition in drop-in sessions. I was constantly humbled by the dedication and commitment of these men – all men – who turned up voluntarily: rain, shine, snow and hail. Many of them, I realise now, had dyslexia; all were ‘functionally illiterate’. Some had had such unsettled schooling, for various reasons, that they had not picked up the fundamental skills of reading and writing.
Whatever the cause, they all came to the gloomy confines of an underfunded institiution (this was the early 1980’s – I have no idea what FE colleges are like today) regularly to suffer the indignities of tackling phonics and sight vocabulary, of letter formation and simple form filling.
I knew that had I enrolled for, say, an aerobics class, I would have faltered at the first sign of bad weather, a sore head (real or imagined) or something good on the box. But night after nght, week after week, these guys opened themselves up to the humiliation of admitting they couldn’t read. Most had this strong sense of purpose because they had children of their own and they desperately desired to read to them and help with homework. They knew their kids deserved a better experience than they themselves had had.
When I heard of the scheme called Storybook Dads I was reminded of the guys I used to teach: they could so easily have been in prison yearning to connect with their kids. It’s a scheme whereby prisoners (not confined to fathers any more) record stories for their children.

‘Prisoners are recorded telling a story with the use of a microphone and a minidisk recorder. The story is downloaded onto a computer and any mistakes are edited out using digital audio software. Music and sound effects are added (from a database of many hundreds) and the final story is put onto a CD. The result is very professional and the children (and the parents) are always amazed at the results. Digital editing makes all the difference as this makes the stories come alive for the children.

The beauty of the scheme is that any prisoner can take part regardless of their reading ability. Even non-readers can participate by repeating the story one sentence at a time with a mentor. The mentor’s voice can be edited out afterwards along with any mistakes and any unwanted noises that often occur in a prison environment (gates, keys etc).

The children love these stories because they can hear their parent’s voice whenever they want and the feedback from prisoners and their families is overwhelming. The parents feel that they are doing something for their children and this goes a long way towards strengthening family ties. Storybook Dads can be a lifeline for families and plays a key role in helping to maintain the family unit during the period of separation.

Parents can take part on its simplest level (just reading a story) or embark on one of the other more ambitious aspects of the scheme such as writing a story and making a book to send out with the audio story. Creating and sending out a book helps prisoners with their literacy and IT skills and also enables them to assist with their children’s literacy development’.

Isn’t that great?

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