Children receive books during recent jail visits

Children with incarcerated parents can now receive a book during visits at the Marshall County Jail.

Steve Hoffman, chief jailer of the Marshall County Jail, said the jail recently adopted the Forever Books for Kids program, developed by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Celeste Bremer in Des Moines.

The program for children 12 and younger, is based on the concept that they can change one child with one book at a time. Children of incarcerated parents are seven times more likely to drop out of school and have other adverse childhood experiences, Hoffman said.

The program in Marshall County is also offering stuffed animals to soften the experience for children, Hoffman said.

“We are excited and appreciate our new partnership with Forever Books for Kids and the opportunity that it presents,” Hoffman said. “In the short time the program has been operational, it appears to be well received and utilized.”

Since founding the project, the program has provided about 100 books a week to the Polk County Jail and expanded to Pottawatamie, Story, Dallas and Marshall counties.

The program is all based on volunteer time, efforts and donated books, both new and old, Hoffman said.

The shelves were also donated by the program.

Once a year, Two Rivers Story Spinners sponsors a book fair at Barnes and Noble, providing professional story tellers throughout the day. Barnes and Noble donates 5 percent of sales, provides a gift card and a 20 person educator’s discount, and that is how most of the Spanish-language books are obtained, Hoffman said.

Forever Books for Kids has also joined up with Joy Wehmas, an independent consultant who sells Usborne Books, which provides a 50 percent matching grant and has allowed the program to purchase another batch of new books, Hoffman said.

“I think it is a wonderful opportunity anytime we can get a book into the hands of a child,” Hoffman said “I believe that access to books create opportunities to facilitate learning and enrich their minds.”