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Holiday Book Project Reinforces Sense of Responsibility
Date: March 16, 2011 11:41PM

Holiday Book Project Reinforces Sense of Responsibility

One of the many innovative endeavors that have marked the career of 2011 Wisconsin CEA Teacher of the Year Marianna Ruprecht is her creation of the Holiday Book Project at the Marathon County Jail (MCJ) in Wisconsin. Marianna is a Northcentral Technical College (NTC) teacher who works full-time at the Marathon County Jail.

Since its founding in 1997, the Holiday Book Project has proven to be very valuable to both inmates and their families. Inmates participating in this activity are audio recorded reading books for their children. The goal of the Holiday Book Project is to reinforce inmates’ sense of responsibility as parents and to develop a closer relationship between the inmates and their children.

Ronda, an NTC adjunct career instructor and a jail programs coordinator, sends out flyers to the inmates and verifies their eligibility to participate in the project. The staff works hard to ensure all inmates are aware of this unique opportunity. Besides speaking regularly of it in class and posting flyers, the project is written up in MCJ’s biannual newsletter, “Hard Times . . . For Now,” with articles written by inmates and published by Marianna.

The project allows children to hear their parents’ voices. It fosters a love of reading and gives the children a chance to listen to good books being read by their parents. The children can listen to the CDs as often as they want. In addition, the parents are able to write a card for their children and send the book and CD home as a Christmas present.

If an inmate is a low level reader, Marianna, another basic education instructor (Mari), an instructional assistant (Jenny), and Marathon County Literacy Council volunteers practice with the inmates until they are able to read the children’s books by themselves. This activity increases the reading ability of the students and improves their self-image.

In 2000, the Marathon County Jail doubled in size resulting in hiring a basic education adjunct instructor for the second classroom. This year, Marianna and Mari had 25 inmates read 39 books for their children. In 2008, the Marathon County Literacy Council (MCLC) saw the value of this project and increased their funding to cover the additional costs of children’s books, CD’s and postage. The increased funding strengthened the Holiday Book Project and brought public awareness to the inmates’ needs.

This past year, however, the literacy council experienced reduced funding. Through discussion with the Jail Advisory Council, committee members from Probation and Parole organized a book drive for new children’s books while NTC funded the purchase of the CD’s and paid for the postage to help alleviate some of the costs for the MCLC council. The literacy council remains an important part of the project by providing the volunteers to help in the classes. This project also highlights the interagency connections that the Marathon County Jail has been able to establish to benefit its students and the community.

To find out more about the Holiday Book Project, contact Marianna Ruprecht at ruprecht@ntc.edu.

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