Ofsted praises prisons reading scheme

Ofsted praises prisons reading scheme

A project which helps male prisoners to read books with their families has been praised by Ofsted for its help to family learning.

The Booktrust Stories Tour was a live event which went into eight prisons around the UK, using a play and a series of reading-based activities and games to help prisoners interact with children, grandchildren and younger siblings. Prisoners were also able to organise gift packs of books for the children to take home with them afterwards.

More than half of prisoners interviewed in a 2012 survey had children under the age of 18 when they went into prison, while 82% said they felt they had let their families down when being incarcerated.

Education and exam regulator Ofsted has now named the Stories Tour programme - run by Booktrust alongside Pact, a charity that supports prisoners and their families, and Arts Council England - as an example of good practice for other schemes to follow, being an "innovative and beneficial family learning programme".

Joanne Stewart-Nash of Pact said: "There is much evidence to show that engaging with their family and especially their children, can contribute to turning a prisoner’s life around and, in the long term, reduce reoffending. The key was to get the prison officers involved in the Stories Tour itself. They could then see the true value of the prisoners engaging with their children and learning alongside them. We promoted the idea to the prison staff as an intervention that could be put on a prisoner’s sentence plan."

Booktrust c.e.o. Viv Bird said: "We are very aware of the benefits to children and adults of sharing stories together and with the help of Pact we managed to engage families who may not traditionally access live literature nor have the opportunity for relaxed and fun storytelling adventures. These visits were clearly very special for both the children and their dads."

Reading in prisons had been hit in the past year by the government's decision to ban the sending of personal packages, including books, to prisoners. The new restrictions, established as part of an earned incentives schemes and designed to stop contraband being smuggled in to prisons, has been met with strong criticism from writers and literary groups, who have petitioned Downing Street to repeal the ban.

Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron refused to meet with campaigners