At the Eric M. Taylor Center, one of nine separate jails on Rikers Island in New York, there are eight inmates who just finished a five-week course called “Daddy and Me.” The course taught these prisoners, who are also fathers, how to read out-loud and record themselves reading for their sons and daughters back home. This is the first time this program has been tried on Rikers Island, although there have been many other such trials in other prisons throughout the country, usually focusing on women inmates, since 1996, or even before.
Explaining the goals of the program was Dora B. Schriro, the commissioner of the city’s Correction Department, who said, “People are multidimensional. Part of being a man is being a dad, and part of being a good man is being a good dad, in the most fundamental sense of the word.”
The program was funded by a family literacy grant of about $3,800 which came from the state. Nick Higgins, head librarian at the correctional services program of the New York Public Library, ran the Taylor Center program. Mr. Higgins told the participating inmates on the very first day that, “Our objective is to hopefully change the attitude that some of you might have about reading to children, that reading is Mom’s job.”