For the Family Literacy Project, this father is reading a book aloud.

Family Literacy Project

Thorna leads one class each week, teaching attendees the “how-tos” of reading and interacting with their children and the importance of engaging in their education.

Within the walls of Jamesville Correctional Facility, inmates participating in the Family Literacy Project are happily reading books to their children and helping them with learning activities they made themselves.

Based on successful national models, the program at Jamesville Correctional is aimed at increasing literacy rates of children with incarcerated parents. It is a joint effort between OCM-BOCES and Onondaga County Public Library and is designed to teach inmates ways to help improve their children’s reading skills and engage in their schooling.

Amy Thorna, literacy coordinator at the Onondaga County Public Library, believes strides can be made in alleviating poverty by first addressing education and literacy.

“Our community has pretty low literacy levels,” she said. “It goes hand-in-hand with the poverty that exists.”

Thorna leads one class each week, teaching attendees the “how-tos” of reading and interacting with their children and the importance of engaging in their education. Six inmates participate in each seven-week session, alternating between male and female groups. A $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation provided seed money to the project, which will continue for as long as funding is available.

The program is modeled after, and expands upon, the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) program. ECRR concentrates on talking, reading, singing, playing and writing as key skills needed to develop a child’s early success.

For the Family Literacy Project, this father is reading a book aloud.
For the Family Literacy Project, this father is reading a book aloud.

The inmates create fun activities for their children, based on one of the five ECRR skills, to send home to them. They also choose three children’s books: one to read on the recording of a video sent home, one to read to their child when they visit on the project’s final day and one to take home to their child when they are released.

All participating inmates have reported wanting to spend more time reading to their children and taking them to the library when they get home. After the inmates are released, they will later receive a postcard reminding them of the goals they stated for themselves and their children at the beginning of the project.

“We say to the inmates, ‘In 10 years or 15 years where do you see your kids? What do you see them doing?’” explained Thorna. “The parents of course want their child to be successful, so we remind them that this is how they can start them down the road to success now.”

Related Stories

3 men standing outside
News Releases February 15, 2024

More than $765,000 Distributed to Local Nonprofits

The Central New York Community Foundation recently distributed $769,999 in grants to local nonprofits.

Man and woman stand together
Stories February 12, 2024

Giving Perspectives: Susan & Michael Meath

The Community Foundation’s 5forCNY initiative, which invites community members to give back to the region ...

Artwork
Blogs December 27, 2023

Everson Museum Highlights Local Indigenous Artist

In July, the Everson hosted Frank Buffalo Hyde’s first solo exhibit in New York State, ...

hand holding growing money
Publications December 20, 2023

Financial Psychology Can Unlock Your Charitable Giving Intentions

Hear from Julia Trivisonno, a Senior Vice President and Key Private Bank Market Leader, on ...

Young girl standing next to bookshelf
Stories December 11, 2023

Making Literacy Accessible

The United Way of CNY recently used a $100,000 grant from our Literacy Initiative Fund ...

Man reading with young boy
Blogs December 4, 2023

Providing an Extra Boost to Help Students Thrive

Mike Nash, president at KS&R and Book Buddies Volunteer, shares how he saw the positive ...

Linda Verni Williams
Stories November 15, 2023

Centered Giving: Linda Verni Williams

When Linda Verni Williams first opened the Oneida Lakes Arts & Heritage Center (“the center”) ...

collage of pictures of young girls doing art
News Releases October 30, 2023

More than $235,000 in Grants Awarded to Black-Led Organizations

Seventeen Black Equity & Excellence Fun grants, totaling $238,200, distributed to Black-led organizations.

Man standing in front of library
Blogs October 17, 2023

Fostering Grassroots Change through The Leadership Classroom

Jacob Gedetsis, founder and director of Write Out and lecturer and coordinator of the Writing ...

3 men standing outside
News Releases February 15, 2024

More than $765,000 Distributed to Local Nonprofits

The Central New York Community Foundation recently distributed $769,999 in grants to local nonprofits.

Man and woman stand together
Stories February 12, 2024

Giving Perspectives: Susan & Michael Meath

The Community Foundation’s 5forCNY initiative, which invites community members to give back to the region ...

Artwork
Blogs December 27, 2023

Everson Museum Highlights Local Indigenous Artist

In July, the Everson hosted Frank Buffalo Hyde’s first solo exhibit in New York State, ...

hand holding growing money
Publications December 20, 2023

Financial Psychology Can Unlock Your Charitable Giving Intentions

Hear from Julia Trivisonno, a Senior Vice President and Key Private Bank Market Leader, on ...

Young girl standing next to bookshelf
Stories December 11, 2023

Making Literacy Accessible

The United Way of CNY recently used a $100,000 grant from our Literacy Initiative Fund ...

Man reading with young boy
Blogs December 4, 2023

Providing an Extra Boost to Help Students Thrive

Mike Nash, president at KS&R and Book Buddies Volunteer, shares how he saw the positive ...

Linda Verni Williams
Stories November 15, 2023

Centered Giving: Linda Verni Williams

When Linda Verni Williams first opened the Oneida Lakes Arts & Heritage Center (“the center”) ...

collage of pictures of young girls doing art
News Releases October 30, 2023

More than $235,000 in Grants Awarded to Black-Led Organizations

Seventeen Black Equity & Excellence Fun grants, totaling $238,200, distributed to Black-led organizations.

Man standing in front of library
Blogs October 17, 2023

Fostering Grassroots Change through The Leadership Classroom

Jacob Gedetsis, founder and director of Write Out and lecturer and coordinator of the Writing ...

View More