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Grants That Make a Difference: The 'Men Read' Program

March 30, 2009

Several of you have shared stories about grants that have changed lives for the better. The latest, submitted by Jolene Constance, assistant warden at the C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in Louisiana, focuses on a donation not of dollars but of books -- books that have been an instrument of change and opportunity.

Grant Recipient
C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center (state prison for adult males)
DeQuincy, Louisiana

Grantmakers
National Center for Family Literacy
Louisville, Kentucky
and
Verizon Foundation
Basking Ridge, New Jersey

About the Grant
Donation of 1,000 books

Men Read Program2 The donated books were given to children visiting their incarcerated fathers during National Family Literacy Day weekend and every other weekend during the month of November. The fathers read the books to their children during visits.

Impact of the Grant
The children of incarcerated parents are the silent victims of crime. They do not see their loved ones as convicted felons but as people they love, miss, and can only see during visits. In many situations they are only able to visit a few times a year due to financial and geographic constraints. When children’s fathers read to them during visits, it facilitates reconciliation and a bonding experience that is rare in a prison setting.

Not only do books bridge social barriers, they bridge literacy barriers as well. To prepare, offenders read the same books in literacy classes that they'll read to their children. The program has helped to remove the stigma associated with lower-level reading among the prison population; reading children's books is now respected because those who do are seen as caring parents. This is a wonderful secondary benefit of the program.

What makes this particular grant a good example of the effective use of philanthropic funds?

It has been proven that children of incarcerated parents are at greater risk of becoming offenders themselves. By breaking that link, we can save a whole generation of young people from becoming adjudicated offenders, reduce the number of crime victims, and save taxpayer dollars now spent to house offenders. Rebuilding relationships between offenders who are being discharged and their families is priceless. If offenders are committed to their families, they are less likely to recidivate and more likely to become productive members of society, which means one less single parent household due to incarceration, one less family seeking financial support from government entities, and one less victim of a senseless crime.

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Do you have a story about a grant that made a difference? Submit your story, and we will continue to feature them on a regular basis here on PhilanTopic, at one or more of our regional Philanthropy Front and Center blogs, and at other areas of our Web site. We also encourage you to submit stories of grants that are addressing needs associated with the current economic crisis.

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