Collection of books to help children of incarcerated parents


June 8, 2021

More than 2.7 million American children are directly affected by the current incarceration of a parent or loved one. Many of them, as well as their loved ones and peers, lack the resources to deal with the feelings of shame and stigma associated with it.

Arizona State University’s Center for Child Well-Being and the ASU Library have assembled a collection of 64 books designed to help the nearly 100,000 children of incarcerated Arizona parents cope better with their feelings.

The Empathy Through Literacy Book Collection at the Noble Library at Arizona State University. The collection, designed to help children of parents who are or have been incarcerated, appears through a collaboration between the ASU Library and the ASU Center for Child Welfare, based at Watts College for Public Service and Community Solutions. USS photo
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The books are part of the “Empathy Through Literacy” collection developed by the center. They cater for a range of ages from first reader to young adult and are available to visitors on the ground floor of the ASU Noble Library on the Tempe campus.

The ASU Library’s involvement in this project was prompted by the recent “Future of Print” library initiative, which was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with the aim of transforming engagement with collections. of prints from the library, said Shari Laster, who heads the ASU library. Open the stack collections.

Laster said visitors will see this collection is different from what they might expect in a traditional college library book display. It is intended to invite exploration and engagement and to offer the public more information, based on the experiences of those involved, about the lives of children who deal with family members and loved ones who are incarcerated. , she said.

Laster said the books will help children of incarcerated parents understand that they haven’t done anything wrong – something their peers should know as well.

“These are picturesque books, and include fiction as well as non-fiction,” she said. “It’s easy to pick them up and read them. We hope that people who read them will make connections in their own lives, maybe with someone they know or maybe to understand the experience of what it’s like to be a person in these. situations.

Laster said that while the collection is currently at the Noble Library, ASU Affiliates can request materials from this display for prompt delivery to a convenient ASU Library location.

Often, children, adolescents and young adults whose parent or loved one is incarcerated feel very lonely and stigmatized, said Judy Krysik, director of the Center for Child Well-Being, based at Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. .

“There’s a lot of shame that goes with it,” said Krysik, associate professor at the School of Social Work. “This exhibit shows that if they pick up a book about how others have treated them, it’s not uncommon, it helps them know they’re not alone. Books can also help parents, caregivers, and teachers who need to know how to talk to a young child about incarceration. “

In addition, Krysik said some parents feel they need to keep their or a family member’s incarceration a secret because they fear their children will not be invited to dates and parties in other places. other children’s homes. Grandparents and other family members can also feel the effects, she said.

“Incarceration is so common in this country, and you have to develop a lot of understanding and empathy,” Krysik said.

Donors including the Hickey Family Foundation provided funds to purchase books from the collection to send to Arizona Children’s Hospitals, State Department of Child Safety Placement Center, Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Children’s First Leadership Academy, as well as public libraries. who don’t have the funds to buy the books, Krysik said.

Krysik said posters were being printed to promote the collection and would be displayed at counseling centers on ASU’s four campuses. The counseling center is starting a support group for those affected by incarceration, she said.

Posters will also be sent to several Arizona libraries, with those in rural areas being particularly targeted in the hope that they will draw attention to the books that are also available there.

Krysik said the centre’s next goal is to offer the books to be placed in the visitor areas of prisons and prisons so that parents can read them with their children.

For more information on the project or to donate, visit


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