PRISONERS are getting the chance to say goodnight to their children thanks to Stratford Literary Festival.
Since launching in 2017, the festival’s Bedtime Stories project has worked with nine schools and run more than a dozen one-day workshops in prisons across England.
During the workshops, prisoners write a story for their children, nephews and nieces, or grandchildren, and each story is turned into a book or – with the help of charity Storybook Mums and Dads – recorded so it can be shared with the children wherever they are.
The bond between children and parents in prison is recognised as hugely influential in the well-being of children and in the rehabilitation of prisoners. According to research those who maintain contact with their families are up to six times less likely to re-offend
In schools, children and their parents or carers are invited to write a bedtime story together, and to share them at an after-school Bedtime Story Party, complete with pyjamas, favourite cuddly toys, hot chocolate, blankets and pillows.
As well as their own stories, the families hear from a children’s author who reads and talks about their work.
And thanks to a £15,000 National Lottery Project Grant from the Arts Council England, 1,000 more families are set to benefit as the charity extends the project to five more schools and provides 12 more workshops for prisons.
Annie Ashworth, Stratford Literary Festival’s founder and director, said: “Demand for this work is increasing, and we are very grateful to the Arts Council for recognising the value of our work and for enabling us to increase our impact through this grant.
“Our charity aims to engender a love of books, and to promote the value of reading and writing as a means of improving communication, life skills and well-being.
“Our festival education work is at the heart of what we do, and for families we have a particular focus on encouraging parents and carers to read to their children because it is during this valuable time together that parents and carers bond with their children, develop literacy skills and gift them a passion they will have for life.”
Peter Knott, area director for Arts Council England, praised the Bedtime Stories programme.
He said: “Reading has the power to transport us through time and space, to open up windows into other worlds and cultures, and to connect us with other people, and this can be particularly transformative for children.
“For children who have a parent in prison, sharing a bedtime story is a vital way to strengthen family bonds, so we’re pleased to support Stratford Literary Festival’s Bedtime Stories as they create safe spaces and innovative ways for families to connect and spend quality time together, discovering and rekindling the joys of storytelling.”