A story of prisoners made ready for everyday life, by the prospect of reading stories to their kids


We are always trying to pick up practices which would never usually be called “political” - but which clearly empower their practitioners, moving them along a line of real change.

Here’s a moving tale from the BBC’s Stories That Shape Us site - itself an interesting exercise in putting ordinary lives at the centre of the news agenda - about how reading bedtime stories to children powerfully supports prisoners in their rehab, post their term of imprisonment.

From the article:

Lewis Hardy was struggling in prison, feeling isolated from his young family and increasingly "cold". Then he was shown a way of doing something that many parents take for granted - reading to his children - and everything began to change.

Lewis Hardy had just been released from prison and was getting a taxi home to see his two sons for the first time in nine months, when he got the call he dreaded.

"What are you up to?" a familiar voice enquired.

"I'm just in a taxi to see my boys."

"Don't worry about that," said his old friend. "See them tomorrow. Come to the pub with us lot."

But Lewis knew exactly what to say. “I ain't ever going to the pub with 'you lot' ever again. My kids are more important."

Prisoners get a lot of time to think, Lewis says, and he'd figured out what was the right decision for him. When he got home his sons, aged six and five, jumped up on him so fast he nearly fell over, he recalls.He couldn't wait to do so many things with them after such a long time apart. 

But top of the list was reading to them.

…Lewis had neglected to read much to his sons before he went to prison - they were six and four when he was sent down. But Storybook Dads was reconnecting him to something from his own childhood.

"It's funny, but reading had been a big part of my childhood," he says. "My mum used to read to me a lot. And from the age of about nine, when I found out I was dyslexic, I got really into reading, until my misbehaving started in my teens. I loved a series called Animorphs and read the lot of them."

Learning about the impact of his stories at home spurred Lewis on to do more. And not only did the stories delight his children - they did something for the story-teller too.

"It's hard to explain the feelings you get in prison," says Lewis. "You don't ever get a cuddle off anyone, you don't even get a shake of the hands, you miss that love from your kids in their eyes, you start to feel quite cold every day. If you have a visit and someone cuddles you, it's the warmest feeling you can ever imagine, it's like an electric blanket around you."

Reading stories for his children brought some of that warmth back into his life. .."It's massively important for someone who wants to be rehabilitated," Lewis says.

More here. Here’s a link to Storybook Dads.