research brief on incarcerated fathersʼ experiences in the Read to Your Child/Grandchild Program

The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy has just published a new research brief, "Incarcerated fathersʼ experiences in the Read to Your Child/Grandchild Program: Supporting childrenʼs literacy, learning, and education" The brief uses interviews and observational data to analyze how 11 fathers in a rural Pennsylvania prison were involved in their children’s literacy, learning, and education before and during incarceration and through the Read to Your Child/Grandchild (RYCG) program. (This program is offered through Pennsylvania state correctional institutions.) The findings suggest that the fathers used the RYCG program to emphasize the importance of education, literacies, and numeracies, while also creating personalized scrapbooks and letters that cultivated their children’s literacy abilities and cognitive, educational, and socio-emotional development. Please share with others who may be interested.



I loved reading this! The recommendations are simple and powerful. 

"Offer more programs like RYCG and other opportunities that integrate and enhance children’s and family literacy practices with adult’s literacy and educational practices.

Incorporate different (multimodal) forms of communication (video, audio, visual art, oral and written language, etc.) into family literacy opportunities for incarcerated indiviudals." 

I'd love to hear how our community members are bridging the family literacy practices for incarcerated parents / grandparents. 

Kathy Tracey

Hi--We have several programs in the ND correctional system that are designed to help foster closer relationships between parents and children.

1. Reading is a Gift. Two times a year (Christmas and Father's Day) fathers who are interested in the program can pick out a book from the Scholastic magazine that is specifically for donating books (the books are paid for by a grant through our education department). The men then are recorded reading the books to their children. We burn a DVD and the dads can wrap the DVD and the book and send them out to their children/grandchildren.

2. Bingo for Books. A couple of times a year, we host a fun family-focused visiting event with games and treats and books as giveaways.

3. Special visiting events. Every two months or so we host a themed event for families. These might be holiday focused (building graham cracker gingerbread houses, painting pumpkins) or STEM focused (simple science experiments at different stations).

4. There is also a committee that is looking at how to foster acceptance and resilience among children of incarcerated parents. They have several initiatives in progress with more to come.

There is always more that can be done, but these small steps are a good way to start out.

Michelle Candy (Instructor, ND DOCR)

Thank you, Esther, for posting this important brief.  Providing the means for fathers and grandfathers to connect with their children and grandchildren while they remain incarcerated through the RYCG program is a win-win effort.  I would love to hear about other initiative and programs designed to promote literacy for both incarcerated parents and children.


Thank you both for your comments. Yes, these programs are tremendously important. Our forthcoming article in the Journal of Prisoner Education and Reentry includes info about other similar programs. I'm posting the citations here so you can look them up. You can find quite a bit of info online about programming, but few of these programs have been the subject of research. If you can't access one of the pieces below, let me know and I can send you a PDF.


Blumberg, D. M., & Griffin, D. A. (2013). Family connections: The importance of prison reading programs for incarcerated parents and their children. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation52(4), 254-269.

Finlay, J. (2014). A comparative study of family literacy programmes in UK and US Prison Libraries (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England.

Gardner, S. (2015). Reading Unites Families: An interactive literacy program for incarcerated fathers and their children. Corrections Today. Retrieved from:  

Higgins, N. (2013). Family literacy on the inside. Public Libraries, 52, 30-35.

Nutbrown, C., Clough, P., Stammers, L., Emblin, N., & Alston-Smith, S. (2019). Family literacy in prisons: Fathers’ engagement with their young children. Research Papers in Education34(2), 169-191.

Quinn-Kong, E. (2018, August). This Texas organization uses books to reconnect female prison inmates with their children. Woman’s Day. Retrieved from

Zoukis, C. (2017). Parents in prison read to children to boost literacy and connection. Huff Post. Retrieved from

Hope House in DC:  Bill Muth has done extensive research with this program. 

This is a great discussion and wonderful resources. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - - regulates and enforces federal financial consumer protection laws and is tasked with financially educating consumers.  One resource that may be of interest is Money as Your Grow Bookshelf -  This "bookshelf" provides free colorful, small booklets that accompany well-known children's books and provide prompts and questions to ask as you read the book to a child.  The age appropriate guide helps build money skills, including executive functioning and decisionmaking skills.  We also have resources designed to help individuals in reentry and those that work with them take action with regard to their financial challenges - Focus on reentry -


Thank you all for these great resources and tips. Having parents read to their young children. I am curious if there are any examples of book discussions or shared reading experiences between incarcerated individuals and their pre-teens or teenagers?

Kathy Tracey