Giving Tree 2014: Women’s Storybook Project of Texas

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Our annual Giving Tree is up in BookKids! The Giving Tree is one of our favorite parts of the holiday season. Every year, Merrilee hand-cuts dozens of delicate paper snowflakes to decorate our Giving Tree. On the back of each snowflake is the name and age of a child who would like a book for the holidays, or a request for a specific book by title. Take a snowflake from the tree, select a book and bring both to our registers. We’ll make sure the book is wrapped and delivered. Or ask a cashier how you can add a monetary donation to your purchase today to help brighten a lucky child’s holiday.

This year’s Giving Tree benefits: Dell Children’s Hospital, BookSpring, and Women’s Storybook Project of Texas.

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Women’s Storybook Project of Texas works to connect incarcerated mothers with their children through recorded storytelling. We asked Director Judith Dullnig to explain how this incredible program operates. Here’s what she shared with us: 

Women’s Storybook Project connects children with their incarcerated moms through literature. A volunteer records a mother while she says a message to her child and reads a story. The recording and the book are mailed to her child. WSP is a non-profit, all volunteer program.

After hearing about a similar program from friends in Louisville, Kentucky, I brought the idea back to Texas. It took about a year to make connections with prison administrators and to design a program with the help of a social worker within Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In 2003, we implemented a pilot program with 5 volunteers, 4 tape recorders and 25 books at one unit. Today, Women’s Storybook Project has 182 volunteers who travel to 6 female prisons, recording incarcerated moms as they read.

This is a win-win-win program. The child hears his mom read a story, also telling him that he is loved, the mother’s self-esteem improves because she knows that she’s doing something positive for her child, and the behavior in the prisons improves because the mother earns the right to be in this program with 90 days good behavior.

After designing a recording procedure that was accepted by TDCJ, we hope to provide CD recordings for the children in all the female units. Currently, two units are using updated equipment. In addition, we hope to implement the program in the remaining female units.

Long term goals are to reduce recidivism and to prevent children of incarcerated parents
from becoming incarcerated.

Women’s Storybook Project is grateful to be part of the Book People Giving Tree. New children’s books are needed as we mail about 350 books each month.

A video documentary available on their website illustrates the work Women’s Storybook Project does for incarcerated mothers and their children: 

Judith also shared a letter sent to her by the grandmother of twins who received a recording from their mother: 

Dear Judith Dullnig,

I find it very difficult to put into words the joy you have brought to my
granddaughters. As the tape began to play, and it was their mother’s
voice, there was such a mixture of laughter and tears. One of the twins
wrapped her arms around her body as if she were embracing her Mom,
it brought tears to my eyes.

The twins took their books to bed with them, as if to keep their Mom
close. I thank you form the bottom of my heart for the joy you brought
to the twins.

You can read more letters like this on the program’s website.

Bridging the enormous gap incarceration forces between mothers and children is a tremendous effort that deserves our support. We hope you’ll find a moment to stop by our BookKids section, take a snowflake and donate a book to a program that is making a difference in the lives children and mothers here in Texas.

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