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Multnomah County Library reaches out to families who would most benefit from early literacy programs. Working with two local jails, they created warm, welcoming literacy nooks for children visiting an incarcerated parent.

Incarcerated parents and their children

Children who have an incarcerated parent face daunting odds. Visiting a jail can be traumatic for a child. Family visiting spaces, where incarcerated parents are allowed to be with their loved ones, are not warm and cozy. It is difficult for a parent to create a warm connection with their child during a visit.


The library’s early literacy team has partnered with Inverness Jail and Columbia River Correctional Institute to bring parents and children together through the simple act of reading. Librarians have transformed family waiting areas in these jails by installing literacy nooks that include colorful, engaging children’s books and interactive materials designed by experts in cognitive development.


These reading areas work hand-in-hand with a series of educational workshops for incarcerated parents, presented by librarians. These parents build confidence and skill in reading with their children, at the jail, and when they return home. Nearly every incarcerated parent who has participated has said they learned new ways to engage with their children and help them love reading.

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