The Mission has been delivering Storybook Dads at Otago Corrections Facility since 2007. In the Storybook Dads programme, the men read a children’s book and record a personal message onto a DVD that is then sent home to their child, along with a copy of the storybook, and a ‘storysack’ full of activities hand made by the men that relate directly to the story and create further opportunities for engagement. The opportunity to create a DVD recording and personal items for their children is a strong incentive for participation in Storybook Dads, and demand for the programme at OCF regularly exceeds available spaces.
Outcomes for Participants:
Family / Whānau Connections
Storybook Dads enables the men to establish and/or maintain important links with family/whānau.For prisoners, creating and sending the DVD and ‘storysack’ to their children is a positive gesture and can provide a catalyst for developing positive relationships. The Mission’s evaluation of Storybook Dads confirms that the opportunity to enhance the relationship with their child is an agent for positive change in the participants, and that their relationships with others, including family/whānau and Corrections staff, improve as a result. Feedback from family/whānau members confirms that the DVD recordings often become valuable items for the children, who treasure the opportunity to see and hear their fathers on a regular basis. For some, the DVD presents a chance to see the men in a different light, and can present a starting point for a more meaningful relationship between father and child.
The men who participate in Storybook Dads regularly comment that the DVD filming sessions provide them with an important and unique connection with their children and enable them to “become dads again”, if only for a limited period of time. The programme often provides opportunities for informal discussions about parenting, with age-appropriate activities, developmental milestones, the use of tone and body language and parental engagement techniques commonly discussed in the preparation of the DVDs and ‘storysack’ items. The programme also provides opportunities for candid discussions about parenting experiences and parenting goals.
The DVD recording process encourages literacy development by requiring the men to read several books and develop their reading, comprehension and presentation skills. The DVD, storybook and ‘storysack’ also support the literacy development of the children who receive them and promote positive intergenerational literacy outcomes.
Storybook Dads is funded by the Department of Corrections.