Women’s Storybook Project, a nonprofit based in Austin which serves children and their mothers across the state of Texas, celebrates 20 years at their annual fundraising luncheon in Austin on April 27. The event features Angelica Zaragoza, a former WSP participant, and Melodye Nelson, the first director of S.T.R.I.V.E., an organization for women going home after prison.
With her own experience in prison, Angelica’s involvement with the Women’s Storybook Project allowed her to stay connected with her son through reading him books while working hard to become a better person for her son. Now, Angelica is a program manager for GEM, or Girls Embracing Mothers, an organization that takes girls on field trips to prisons to visit their moms.
At Women’s Storybook Project (WSP), the mission is to connect incarcerated mothers with their children through the joy of literature. Incarcerated moms are given the opportunity to earn, through good behavior, the ability to record themselves reading a book, which is then mailed to their child. The result is that a child gets to hear their mom reading them a bedtime story.
The simple sharing of a storybook can have a big impact on a family dealing with parental incarceration. These stories can strengthen and heal damaged relationships and build hope for the future.
“We don’t often think of incarcerated people,” Executive Director Jill Gonzalez said. “It’s not a population you can see, and while the incarcerated people are often forgotten about, their children are just a whole other level of separation. It’s hard, and Texas is a big state. If you don’t live within an hour, or within a driving distance that’s realistic, you’re not going to go, so a lot of our moms never get a visit the whole time they’re there. What we’re hoping to do is help reconnect the mom with their child.”
About Women’s Storybook Project
The idea for Women’s Storybook Project originated in 1993 with a program founded by Lutheran Social Services in Chicago. They currently have two full-time employees and over 240 volunteers. Their service model utilizes cutting edge technology. Volunteers use digital recording devices to record mothers reading to their children, and the recordings are delivered on CDs or through URLs.
Cover photo courtesy Women’s Storybook Project