Church program allows mothers in prison to read books to their kids via recordings

Photo Credit: WCMH

FRANKLIN CO., Ohio (WCMH) — Children and holidays go hand-in-hand. But imagine the pain for mothers locked away from their children on Thanksgiving Day.

For the first time Franklin County Jail inmates are reading books to be gifted to their children. A book recording kids can play over and over, hearing mommy’s voice.

WCMH went to the Jackson Pike Correction Center, to speak with inmates and officials about the startup program.

“This is Mommy; I want to read you a book,” said Dashaundra Lewis as she read into a recorder. She is the mother of three children, all 10 years old or younger. She said she is hopeful she will get out of jail before Christmas.

Deborah Scott with Vineyard Columbus said reading a book to your child is something most people take for granted.

“You just let me know when you are ready to start,” said Scott, who instructed inmates with a quick tutorial before recording each reading.

“Hi baby; This is mommy, and I just wanted to tell you I love and miss you and can’t wait to see you,” said Chelsie Runyon, a mother of five children all 9 years old or younger. “Now I am about to read you a book called Cork and Fuzz, Finders Keepers.”

Runyon is waiting to be transferred to the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

The idea is to keep a connection with children by the generations-old tradition of reading a book, so their child can play mommy’s voice over and over.

“It is just sad because you wish you could be next to your child instead of reading the book and sending a recording,” said Runyon.

This is a first-time partnership between the county jail and Vineyard Church.

“It can be very emotional while they are preparing to read but once they start reading they are just transported,” said Deborah Scott with Vineyard Columbus.

“Being able to reach out with our kids is a blessing,” Lewis said.

To qualify inmates are able to make the book recording as part of a parenting class. Still, both inmates said being locked up during the holiday is tough.

“It is terrible, I Miss my children very much,” said Lewis.

“At least they can hear your voice and keep replaying it over, so they don’t forget about you,” said Runyon.

Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott said its about keeping a family bond while doing time.

“I can’t imagine what the kids are going through knowing their parents are in jail. This gives them a little more of that connection that they are still in that relationship and get too far removed that creates a whole other set of problems,” Scott said.

Deborah Scott said for the program to grow they need volunteers. She said if you would like to help call Vineyard Columbus.

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