Story Time for Incarcerated Fathers and Their Children at Bradshaw State Jail

Bradshaw State Jail, in Henderson, Texas, facilitates a program for their residents sponsored by local volunteers.

“The name of our program is ‘Storybook’”, says Nelda Maurer, a volunteer at the facility. “And our mission is to keep the men connected with their children while they’re away.”

At a table in the facility’s library, Nelda prepares a mobile device to record the voice of Kennard Smith, a resident of the facility who patiently waits for the process to begin. When all is set, Nelda ensures Kennard is ready, and pushes the record button. Kennard begins:

“To my beloved son, Kason Kennard Smith, welcome to a journey of Storybook. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Sit back, relax, and let the sounds of the storybook tickle your membranes and imagination. I love you, son. May God bless you”

Participants are given the opportunity to select two books to read to their child. Kennard continues, reading into the device, introducing the book. “Who am I?” He says. “By Nancy Christensen, illustrated by Rowan Barnes Murphy.”

The reading sessions are recorded, digitized, then delivered to the children.

Kennard goes on: “I am not tall…next page…I am not small.”

Following the recording session, Kennard explains his participation.

“This will be my second time reading stories to my kids. I have an oldest son who has already received his books. This one’s going to my youngest son. I just want to thank everyone who has contributed to this program, this sponsorship. You guys are amazing. I never thought in a million years that I’d be able to actually read stories to my kids.”

At the mic, Kennard moves on to the second book.

“Little Joseph was a shepherd boy whose wonderful dreams brought him great joy.”

He later expresses what the experience means to him. “And I get to talk to him and be any character that the book allows me to be. And I know he loves that. So, I just want to thank God and thank the people who sponsor this project. May God bless you and your families.”

Wrapping up his recording session, Kennard concludes: “The end. These two books, I hope you enjoyed them. I love you so much. You have a blessed day.”