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Date: Jun 14, 2017

by Sharon Tyler, Program Manager, Baltimore County Department of Corrections

A father, incarcerated in a Maryland jail, was on the phone, reading a book with his son. “They finally have something to talk about together,” said the boy’s mother.

The Turning Pages Family Literacy Program at the Baltimore County Detention Center is reunifying incarcerated parents with their spouses and children. The program offers fathers the opportunity to bond with their children through reading, with the entire family often improving their literacy as they read together.

A team of experienced educators leads father’s workshops and Family Reading Club events. Inmates choose the books they want to read with their children, and receive instruction from volunteers on how to best engage the children. 

Dads and kids gain skills and confidence

The children are excited to visit their dads and spend one-on-one time with them. Children carry the books around, waiting to read to their dads on the phone. Sometimes the dads discuss serious issues with the children, and the books make it easier to talk. 

Over the eight-week program, the fathers cover four genres: stories, story books or classics, nonfiction, and issue-related titles devoted to everything from potty training to behavior. Four family reading events take place in the County Detention Center contact visitation room. Here, fathers read to their children and complete a literacy-related activity. Caregivers also meet to share how they are supporting their children’s literacy development.

Signs of success

Inmates have said they would never have read to their children if not for the Turning Pages program. Others have said they didn’t realize how much fun reading could be, and others report they initially were embarrassed by their own lack of reading skills, but now feel confident reading with their children. 

Months after the program, inmates and their children remain in contact, and literacy skills strengthen, as most parents continue to read aloud to their children and read independently for their own enjoyment.

Flo Kennedy-Stack, a retired Arbutus Middle School teacher who started the Turning Pages program at the Baltimore County corrections facility, sums it up: “Reading is so simple and so loving. The ripples of that simple loving act go out.” 

The Baltimore County Department of Corrections is focused on turning lives around with resources and programs ranging from drug treatment to job training. The department’s Turning Pages Family Reading Club has been recognized as a model program by the National Association of Counties. Visit for more information about the program.

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