I heard about Women’s Storybook Project through the Junior League’s list of placement opportunities. Reading the mission statement immediately touched my heart and the chance to help connect incarcerated moms with their kids excited me greatly. The tragedy of the high percentage of incarcerated women who are moms is heartbreaking and I believe it is a population that deserves extra attention. There is strong research on the positive impact of parents reading to their children and the WSP moms’ kids cherish listening to their mom’s voice as they read along in the book at home. I volunteered in the Lockhart unit and helped transfer the moms’ tape recordings onto CDs and URL links - hearing snippets of the loving messages to each of their kids. The wide selection of books WSP provides is also wonderful. I’ve never worked with a non-profit that has such a devoted, long-term, and tight group of volunteers and an excellent staff.
What would you give to hear your mother's voice again? Children whose mothers are behind bars may not be able to hear their mother's voice for years. That's because phones in Texas' prisons are scarce and phone calls are VERY expensive. But, the Women's Storybook Project of Texas provides a free option for many of these kids. The non-profit comes into the prisons and works with the women to record them as they read to their kids. Volunteers then send the recording AND a new copy of the book to the kids - no matter what state of the country they live in. And they don't do it once, they do it time after time. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? How absolutely PRICELESS?
I was lucky to volunteer with Women's Storybook Project of Texas during one of their book drives. I think the thing that resounded with me the most is it was a cause everyone rallied behind. Storytime is synonymous with bonding with a parent, and being able to preserve that bond with children and incarcerated mothers is precious. Everyone we encountered was helpful, passionate about the project, in interested in not only doing well for the children and their moms, but educating the community to. I look forward to future ways to work with them!
The first time I sat down as a volunteer at the Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville, Texas and heard incarcerated mom's read to their children, I thought about my mother’s voice reading me my favorite stories as a child and was brought quickly to tears.
I had not heard of Storybook before my neighborhood ladies group voted to make volunteering our annual service project. For me the idea of going inside a prison to sit and help "criminals" was unsettling, a bit intimidating, and more than a little scary. Not only did I not know what to expect from prison and prisoners, but I worried about how uncomfortable I would feel in such an unusual and frankly terrifying place. But, I put those fears and nerves aside and went through training and signed up for our first visit. The fear I had about the prison, the women, and my own ability to relate to the situation all vanished as soon as I helped my first mother record the book "I Love You Forever" to her 4 year old daughter.
When she closed the book and said, "I love you forever baby, be a good girl, and be strong, Mama will be home soon." I choked back a sob and we both wiped away our tears. I knew Storybook was a worthy organization that I wanted to be more involved with, and I knew I was coming back.
Since that first visit I have volunteered inside a prison once a month, and I look forward to the privilege of helping build the bond between mother and child during the most difficult of circumstances. I take a lot of joy in knowing that after each visit, after giving just a few hours of my time, there are typically 50+ children who are going to get a very exciting envelope in the mail with a brand new book, a written message, and a recording they will have forever of the day their mommy missed them and loved them enough to record them something special.
Beyond just the experience inside the prison I also look forward to meeting other volunteers, interesting women of all ages and walks of life, who share the same excitement and passion each time we start the drive together. We all get to know one another on the drive up and over lunch before we head in for our work, and then we always end up sharing our stories of joy and heartbreak from the day recording on the way home.
For instance on one particular visit when asked if they had received any feedback from their children since we sent the last book, one mom quietly raised her hand and smiled. She said that her mother told her they had gotten the book she sent for her 4 year old but she wasn’t really understanding what it was yet. However, her 16 year old daughter had the CD and was listening to it every morning as she got ready for school. There wasn’t a dry eye left in the room.
I've travelled with wonderful interesting women like librarians, grad students, computer programmers, bloggers, cancer-survivors, proud Aunties, legal aides, and one very special retired 7th Grade Teacher - my Mom, Susan, who now is also a Storybook volunteer.
I absolutely love what this very special non-profit organization stands for...family. Reading time was always a precious thing in our home, as my kids were growing up, and I believe that it has instilled a love of words and language in both of my children.
Hooray Women’s Storybook Project for seeing beyond the mistakes that put these incarcerated women where they are, and helping them continue, nurture, and restore that bond with their children! What you do MATTERS!
I started volunteering with the Womens Storybook Project through St. Edward's University's Civic Engagement course led by professor Braun. That was almost six years ago! Needless to say I am beyond impressed by the dedication and passion I've seen in the staff and volunteers over the years. They truly believe in this mission and have made it a lifelong goal to help children with incarcerated parents, the mothers in prison, and the communities they represent. I absolutely love this organization and highly recommend getting involved if you can!
We helped promote this mission after discovering a young man whose passion for the cause led him to great heights. Besher is a tap-dancing 8th-grader who has used his unique talents and bright personality to become the single largest donor to Women’s Storybook Project with over 1,500 books donated. At the age of 8, his parents took him to a local Barnes & Noble to pick out a book when they were approached by volunteers from Women’s Storybook Project of Texas. The young man was so moved by the message of the organization that he not only donated two books on the spot, but immediately hatched a plan to do more. He created a video and set out to launch his own book drive for Women’s Storybook Project, with a goal in mind of 64 books – 8×8 for the then 8-year-old. Besher ended up collecting over 280 books and has kept up this tradition every year since, becoming more and more successful at driving book donations each year.
I began supporting this charity living abroad after reading a compelling article about its mission. We are called to visit those in prison, and what better way to do that than by connecting incarcerated mothers with their children. This mission is vitally important, and I am proud to have become a board member last year.
As a former teacher, university administrator, volunteer and team leader, I can say that Women's Storybook Project is one of the most effective programs I have seen that may help with offender recidivism while affording their children with love, attention, enhanced well being and self-esteem , better reading and writing skills all through appreciation of excellent quality children's literature. I feel so strongly about this program that I have volunteered with them since 2004 and been a team leader of one unit since 2011 and a donor for many years. It is not often that one happens upon a program that lifts everyone up - moms, children, caregivers, volunteers, and the community at large. Women's Storybook Project is one that does just that!
Being a team leader at the Mt. View women's unit in Gatesville, TX has been one of the highlights of my life! Hearing these mothers pour out their love and longing for their children through reading and recording great children's literature and seeing their faces when the children respond makes my day every time I visit. Through notes to our program from the children's caregivers we can know just how important hearing their mother's voice is to the children's sense of well being. We all need to be loved and connected and that is what this program brings to us all.
The quality of its small staff and inspiring leadership of its founder Is what drew me in. There is a belief in the many seen and unseen ways this very special reading program is impacting children and their mothers that is palpable. It is a fabulous program!
Women's Storybook Project is such a wonderful charity. I have volunteered with the group for more than six years. We go to various women's prisons in Texas, taking children's books and recording devices. The prisoners read to their children, and their voices are recorded. The recordings are then burned to a CD, and the CD and book are sent to each child whose mother is incarcerated. I love seeing the joy in the faces of the prisoners as they read to their children. It is such a boost for them, and enriching to me as well. Women's Storybook Project gets my time and my donations as well. There's not a more worthwhile charity!
I have volunteered with Women's Storybook Project of Texas for 2 years in a state jail just outside of Houston, TX. As a licensed clinical social worker and educator, I fully support the mission of the Storybook Project and can attest to its effectiveness. The intervention of recording incarcerated mothers reading to their children and then sharing the recording and the book with their children is so simple, yet so powerful. The mission supports parent/child attachment and bonding and encourages family literacy. Having recorded many mothers, it is so clear how important and meaningful participating in the program is to them. They work very hard to be eligible to participate in the program and are thrilled pick out books and read to their children. Volunteering for Storybook is easy and not overly time consuming and it makes a tremendous difference in the lives of families touched by incarceration. If you care about family preservation and literacy, this is the organization for you!
I worked with Women's Storybook Project as their Statewide Outreach and Research Intern during the summer or 2020. I absolutely adored working with Jill Gonzalez, the Executive Director and Sun Connor the Operations Manager for WSP. Both Jill and Sun have such a passion for the work they are doing for incarcerated women around Texas and do a wonderful job of energizing their volunteers and other community members to stay active with the organization even during Covid-19. One of the great things about this organization is their ability to leave such an impact on incarcerated women and their children in Texas because unlike other larger advocacy groups, WSP focuses on the hands on, in-the-now work that is so so important to the wellbeing of these families. Working with WSP was a rewarding experience for me, as well as an educational one. I encourage any and all folks to come and join this truly special non-profit based in Austin, but with action reaching across the entire state.
Volunteering with Women's Storybook Project over the last three years has been so incredibly enriching for me! I look forward to my one Saturday each month at the prison--helping mothers connect with their children through literature is a win-win for all involved: the inmates, the children, the children's caregivers, and the volunteers. I try to help out when I can at other times during the month by doing some simple computer work, taking the books to the post office after a visit, or working book fundraisers.
Hearing the caregivers describe the children's response to listening to their mother read a book to them is what makes it all worthwhile. Every child deserves to hear his mother say "I love you and I'm thinking about you".
For the past 15 years, the third Saturday of the month has been a day of joy as I watch 25-30 mothers connect with their babies the best way they can. In the book room I watch them struggle to pick JUST the right book for each of their precious children. They sit in the group circle waiting to be called to read their chosen book(s). During this time, they write heartfelt notes into their book, sometimes tracing their hands and inviting their child to "hold hands" with them. Quietly they practice reading the book so they can read it just right for the recording.
When it is finally their turn to sit one on one with a volunteer who will record them reading, sometimes the emotions overwhelm them and tears fall. Or, in recognition of the child's upcoming birthday, the mother sings a heartfelt Happy Birthday song,feeling thankful she can send her child the gift of her voice.
After the recording is over, the offender takes the book and recording to the computer room where the CD they will send their child is created. Meanwhile, she decorates the case with hearts and messages of love.
Finally they come to me to pack their precious gifts into mailers and label it to their child/children. As they pack, they nearly always share their thankfulness for this program, often asking how they can get involved when they are on the "outside". But this last weekend, I was incredibly moved by what one mother said to me.
She has been in Storybook as often as she can for several years. She explained to me that the unit is currently sending offenders with "heat warnings" to other units that are air conditioned. What she said next took my breath away. "I qualify to move but I told them I didn't want to be moved because I don't want to take a chance of loosing Storybook! Hearing my voice is just too important for my kids!"
The children who receive these books are blessed to hear their momma's voice. Many carry them around close to their hearts or listen every night as their voice soothes them to sleep. What a differece this organization makes in lifes! I am blessed to be a tiny cog in this hugely meaningful project!
The Women's Storybook Project of Texas is truly a unique and wonderful charity. Helping little ones hear their mother read them a bedtime story is something that every child should get to experience. What a great way to help out mothers and children in need! I absolutely love Women's Storybook Project of Texas and everything they do.
PR by the Book - Austin, TX
I am so impressed by the mission of this organization. I am equally impressed with the integrity of the organizaiton's leadership. This is a Staff and Board with great heart coupled with the ability to get services to families who need it most.
Our Dynamic DIVA Dawgs supported the WSBP as our Philanthropic cause for the 2018-19 school year. We are a service organization that empowers young girls with Courage, Confidence and Character through Community Service. We raised awareness, collected books and funds for the WSBP during the school year. We donated over $1,000 in cash, and lots of books for the incarcerated mothers to choose/read/record to their children living at home. We hope to be a part of bringing the WSBP to the Halbert Prison here in Burnet, TX this fall. Our organization learned alot about selfless love by donating and fundraising for the WSBP.
This group of amazing volunteers changes lives! I have worked with them since 2007 and their commitment to making a difference is as strong today as it was then. The lives of female offenders and their children benefit from The Story Book Project! Ms Judith and all the volunteers inspire me to do all I can, as the Director of Correctional Institutions Division, to make a difference in female offender programs as well. Thank you Story Book, thank you!
I've been volunteering with Women's Storybook Project of Texas for 3 years now and get nothing but satisfaction and hope after visiting with these incarcerated women. To think that the children will be able to hear their mother's voices! It's something these kids will remember the rest of their lives. It definitely draws the mothers closer to their children. And I greatly enjoy meeting and getting to know the other females who volunteer with Storybook -- women of all ages and backgrounds, and people who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
There are many things you miss when a major health issue prevents you from participating in your life's activities. Some activities you miss more than others. That is the way it is with Storybook. For several years I was blessed to go to the womens' prisons to help mothers read books they had chosen for their children and then to help package the books and the recordings for mailing to the children. Helping the mothers and knowing how much it meant to their children made the day of driving, briefings, and debriefings a joy. And what a joy when we received the letters from guardians about what the recordings and the books meant to the children! I know in my heart that many children and their mothers have been rescued and given hope because of WPS.
Women's Storybook Project is unique in the way it connects children with their incarcerated mothers. Oftentimes, the children do not know why their mothers are separated from them or why they cannot visit. Hearing their mother's voice read them a book helps alleviate that anxiety and brings the children comfort despite the distance between them.
Never in my life did I think I would be involved in a prison ministry. And yet for almost 10 years, on the third Saturday of every month, I meet with a group of women for a meal and a pep talk. Then we split into two groups and go into two Texas state jails for a couple of hours. Every time you have to leave your ego and all your belongings in the car, screw up your courage, and submit to a pat down. You never know if it's going to take an hour or 15 minutes for everyone to be searched and get through all the routine (which is never routine!) and to the mothers. You spend a couple of hours helping these women be mothers to children they sometimes have not seen in years. They get to select a book and read it while we record them, encourage them, sing Happy Birthday with them, and sometimes cry with them. My particular role is to take that recording and burn a CD that is then mailed, along with the book, to the child. My child was read to every single night of his childhood. It's important on so many levels for children to be read to. This is an extremely well run nonprofit from the top to those of us going into the prisons monthly. And sometimes the top people go with us into the prisons! This is a hands-on labor of love and concern and there is a place in it for you. Volunteers are always needed in the prison visits but there are other ways to help. It's an amazing feeling when you walk out of prison. I always write on my hand how many offenders we worked with and how many books and CDs we are mailing. That stays on my hand for a day or two but think how long hearing their mother's voice reading a book will stay with these children!
Working with this nonprofit has transformed my heart for children with incarcerated parents. The work WSP is not only restoring relationships today but aiding in the development of tomorrow's generation. Go WSP!