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A holiday success

As Children’s Librarian at the Greenfield Public Library, it has been my privilege to repeat a successful holiday season program in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Department.

Last year, programs director Laura Waskiewicz of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office arranged for incarcerated fathers to be recorded on DVD reading books to their children. These books were sent to the homes of the children with the DVDs as holiday gifts. Sheriff Chris Donelan and his staff strive to do all they can to look toward the future of these men and their families when they are no longer at the FCHC. The men were all extremely grateful for the opportunity, and it was an excellent outreach project for the GPL.

Laura retired in the summer of 2012, but the wheels were already set in motion to repeat the program, through a generous donation to the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library earmarked for the project this year. With Candace Angier and Joseph Sabella facilitating meetings and administration of the project and videographer Daniel Keller generously donating his services, the recording session took place on Thursday, Nov. 29.

I had chosen books for the fathers to read based on a survey sheet including the ages and likes of the children. The library used the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library fund to purchase the dozen books, including “Good Night Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown; “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss; and some books for older kids like Jon Scieszka’s “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.” Books were chosen to meet the requests of the men whenever possible, and to be sensitive to any text or characters that might be “button” issues for this population. In two hours at the jail, 12 fathers and grandfathers read aloud, each of them looking into the camera as if it were the child’s face to introduce and conclude the reading.

On 12/12/12, that memorable date, there was a “wrap” party in a multipurpose room at the jail, so that the men could gift wrap the books and completed DVDs and write the children’s names on white tags shaped like snowmen. They were anxious to know that these gifts would be going to the post office right away and the kids would have their books and recordings by Dec. 25. This project has moved everyone involved, from the guards who stood in the jail library while the men went over their readings and waited their turns to the men themselves, who thanked us as they finished their readings and went back to their activities. They thanked us again when the presents were wrapped and ready to go, and in fact, “Thank you” echoed everywhere in that building.

I would like to thank Sheriff Donelan, Candace Angier, Joseph Sabella, Dan Keller, and the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library for giving me the opportunity to help create this moment in these fathers’ lives. If people in prison know that there are others who care beyond those walls, the day they get to rejoin their communities may be just a little easier. If the children and families who wait for them have these books to hold in their hands and the faces of the fathers to see as they read, That gift may make a difference whose true value we can never know.

Kay Lyons is children’s librarian for the Greenfield Public Library.

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