The Junior League of Washington (JLW) is pleased to announce Hope House DC as the third of three organizations the JLW has awarded an opportunity grant to this fall. Opportunity grants are grants for less than $1,000 and are awarded to community organizations that are addressing one of the following complex areas of the JLW’s narrowed children’s reading literacy focus (1) lack of books in the home; (2) lack of books and resources in the school; and/or (3) reading out loud to children ages 0 – 5.
Hope House DC was founded in 1998 after the closing of the District of Columbia's Lorton Correctional Complex sent thousands of D.C. inmates to federal correctional facilities across the country. Currently more than 8,000 District inmates, most with families in the greater D.C. metropolitan area, are imprisoned in more than 50 facilities as far away as California. The mission of Hope House DC is to (a) strengthen families by improving the bonds between children and their fathers imprisoned far from home; (b) reduce the isolation, stigma, shame and risk these families experience when fathers are imprisoned; and (c) raise public awareness about this most at-risk population.
One of the ways Hope House DC accomplishes the mission is through the “Father to Child Reading Program”, which promotes family literacy by recording dads reading to their kids, then sending the book and recording home to the children - a unique approach to the standard family literacy model of parents and children reading together. The readings build relationships between separated children and fathers and use their desire for a relationship to motivate them to keep reading together.
The Reading Program is carried out by two Hope House staff and a small number of local contractors who visit prisons regularly with an array of children’s books and audio or video recording equipment. Fathers choose a book from the collection. After spending time practicing, fathers read the books aloud as their voice is recorded. Each father prefaces and closes his reading with a personal message to his child. The signed book and tape are taken out of the prison by Hope House staff and mailed home to the child of the inmate, at no cost to the inmate or his family.
Each year, Hope House DC records and distributes at least 2,000 books to children with fathers in prison. As books typically go to families with more than one child, about 3,000 children each year are encouraged and excited to read more often because they have received book recordings from their fathers.
Since the program’s inception, Hope House DC has used audio tapes to record fathers reading to their children, with video recordings being the rare exception. It has become difficult to find audio tapes, and the children the organization serves tends to have more access to CD players.
The $500 opportunity grant from the JLW will purchase four Sony digital recorders that will allow the organization to make CDs instead of audio tapes. The balance will go towards the purchase of blank CDs.
In the spring, the JLW will be awarding additional opportunity grants to community organizations, with a deadline of February 1 for submission of materials. Additional information can be found online. If you have questions about the opportunity grants or want additional information, please contact Alicia Lee, chair of the Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chair, Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee