Story Book Dads | This means more bedtime stories

Every year in the UK, 200,000 children experience the imprisonment of a parent. It often leads to shame, guilt & isolation resulting in failure at school. These children are three times more prone to mental health problems than their peers.

Storybook Dads allows parents in prison to reconnect with their children at home through the magic of storytelling. Parents record bedtime stories on CDs and DVDs, so their children can listen to them or watch them whenever they like. A wonderful way to keep in touch, both parents and children benefit from Storybook Dads, helping to strengthen their relationship during times apart.

I honestly believe that if it wasn’t for Storybook Dads, my little girl and I wouldn’t have the strong bond that we have now.”

Founded in 2003 by Sharon Berry, a volunteer at HMP Channings Wood, Storybook Dads was the result of a collaboration between Sharon and the Writer in Residence at the prison. Sharon introduced the scheme, initially recording prisoners on the wing reading story books, and editing the stories at home. Sharon was given access to an empty classroom to work from, and she soon began training other prisons to set up their own editing suite and replicate the project. Today the charity work with over 100 prisons and every year help over 5,000 prisoners record bedtime stories for their children.

My little girl couldn’t sleep at night after her Daddy went away. Now she listens to the CD I made for her every night. It helps her so much.”

When the world ground to a halt, prison-based operation had to stop too. They shut up shop in their HMP Channing’s Wood headquarters and volunteers at prisons throughout the UK headed home, not sure when they would return. What didn’t stop, was the need for the families of incarcerated parents to keep in touch with their children; in fact, the need grew even greater- family visits stopped and prisoners experienced extended periods in their cells to slow the spread of Covid 19.

With this in mind, the team came up with a couple of new initiatives that were rolled out to prisons- namely Families on Film and Swaps packs. Families on Film allowed prisoners’ families to record up to five minutes’ footage of their child/ children. They sent it to Storybook Dads through a secure link and the staff now working from home, crafted the 5 minutes into a short film before it was sent on to the prisoner on a DVD to keep.

Their second initiative, Swaps, was a great way for prisoners and their children to find out fun things about each other. Prisoners were given a pack of activity sheets to complete in their cell over a week or two. An identical pack was sent to their children to fill in. Once completed they collected each pack and swapped them over so that each could see what the other had created. These packs were designed for children aged between six and fourteen and was a great way of engaging both prisoners and older children at home during lockdowns.

Thanks to initiatives such as easyfundraising, Storybook Dads were able to keep a core team of project workers employed running these new projects during a very difficult time. As they continue to work under some restrictions in prisons, donations help to keep work going beyond Covid.

Storybook Dads have been a lifeline for many families during the pandemic and we hope to continue to offer our unique service to prisoners and their loved ones for many years to come.”

Supporters of Storybook Dads have already raised over £1,400 through easyfundraising and together we can make this year mean more. Shopping through easyfundraising is more than just a purchase, it means the charity can reconnect more children with their parents.