York County Libraries wins state award for prison reading program

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Seated with York County Library System employees Felica Gettle, left, and Lisa Schmittle, inmate Stephanie Schymansky, center, gets ready to read a book aloud for an audio recording for her sons Lucas, 7, and Brandon, 11, on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, at the York County Prison in Springettsbury Township. The prison and the York County Library System are launching a new program, "Beyond Our Walls," that will enable inmates to record audio of them reading a book for their child. York County Commissioner Doug Hoke said the program, in which eight female inmates are currently enrolled, is designed to increase literacy for inmates' children and to reduce recidivism by facilitating familial bonds and inmates' transitions back into society. Additionally, upon release, participating inmates will receive a library card and re-entry resources. The program will be expanded to include male inmates in July.

York County Libraries won a statewide award last week for the Beyond Our Walls: Read Me a Story program aimed at connecting incarcerated parents with their children through reading.

The 2019 Best Practices Award for Family/Multi-generational Programming was awarded at last week's Pennsylvania Library Association Conference in Erie, according to a York County news release. The program allows incarcerated parents in York County Prison to teach their children literary skills through voice recordings.

“The voice recording bridges an emotional gap, connecting parent to child beyond the prison walls that divide them,” said Robert F. Lambert, president of York County Libraries.

The program works by allowing a limited number of inmates to choose children's literature and record themselves reading for their children. The recordings and library resources are then mailed to their children for their own educational purposes.

The effort is based on studies that have shown maintaining connections with family members can ease incarcerated parents' transition back into society as well as reduce recidivism rates.

The program, which is on its third year, has served more than 330 county inmates, the release states.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.