A programme run in Manawatu Prison is helping fathers remain connected with their young children while in prison.
The Dads & Books programme is run by Prisoners Aid & Rehabilitation Society (PARS) volunteers and encourages the fathers to write books for their children.
Over six weeks PARS volunteers led by Adie Transom, Field Services Manager for Manawatu PARS, worked with five young fathers in the prison.
“The purpose of the programme,” says Adie, “is for the men to stay connected with their kids and whanau”.
She says by writing their books “they’ve drawn on skills they may not have known they had.”
“The men have set the bar high with their finished books. I’ve really enjoyed the programme and what the men have produced is really amazing.”
The programme starts with the volunteers showing the men children’s books so they can see how pictures and text work together to tell a story.
From there, the men plan the structure of their book, what size it should be, devise a storyline, and work out what images they needed to support the text. Volunteers then type up the men’s text and help them to choose images for it.
“It was good to see the men come into the classroom and get focused on the programme,” says Adie.
The men’s books range from counting books, to a book highlighting all the action and adventures father and son are going to do when dad goes home, as well as breaking in a racehorse that a daughter then rides.
Speaking at the programme graduation on Friday 13 April, Jim* said he wrote his book for his young son to help him learn to count. He “enjoyed the programme more than expected”, and said the hardest part was “making the book without others knowing I was getting emotional thinking about my son”.
Another dad wrote his book for his 5 year old son, “keeping the book simple so he can read it himself”. The book features lots of photos of things the father wants to do with his son when he is released.
Assistant Prison Director Ron Whelan says the programme “is a great example of the mind remembering what the heart is saying. These books are the beginning, and we encourage the men to keep adding to them, and to make positive changes in their lives.”
The men’s books will be delivered or posted to their families by the PARS volunteers.
The programme has been running in Manawatu Prison for around 5 years.
*not his real name