Reading program helps inmates connect with their children while behind bars

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LEELANAU CO, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- When parents spend time behind bars, it can be tough to remain close with their young kids, but one Traverse City woman is working to make sure they won't lose that bond.

The program allows inmates to voice record them reading a book to their kids or grandkids and have that recording and book sent to their home.

Since it started last year, it's already impacted nearly 100 families.

“I'm a retired teacher of special needs and seems to me like it's a special need of a different sort,” said Remain in Touch founder, Connie Eisenhart.

Twice a month, Connie spends her afternoons at the Leelanau County jail, with a stack of new books and a voice recorder. She records inmates reading a book for their child, which she then sends to the family.

“We know very well that the children of inmates share the sentence,” said Eisenhart. “We also know as educators the importance of books in the home, the importance of being read to, the importance of having that one on one contact with your parent.”

She founded the non-profit in 2016, and this April it expanded to Benzie County after starting in Leelanau, and so far she's mailed nearly 400 books and recordings.

“We like having the opportunity to have this reading program where they can stay in touch, and when their sentence is over they can get back to normal life and doing what their best at, hopefully which is raising their children and being a good spouse for their family,” said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich.

An emotional experience for all involved that Connie says is about a lot more than just a book.

“During that period of time that they are reading you can definitely feel the warmth in their voice,” said Eisenhart. “So the child is getting the book and the recording and listening in that period of time there is that connection.”

Connie says the books average about 10 dollars and that's also what it costs to ship, but they've received a lot of grants and donations which continue to make the program possible.

She says she's hoping they'll continue to expand to other jails.

If you'd like to help, Brilliant Books downtown Traverse City has a list of approved books and will give you 20 percent off if you buy one to donate to Remain in Touch.

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