CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – A new program is helping provide books to teens incarcerated in Linn County Juvenile Detention and Diversion Services.
Whether they are in the facility for a short time or for a long time, adolescents learn skills that they can apply.
“You know we have kids carrying one, two, three pounds,” said Dan Williams, deputy director of the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center.
Fresh Start Ministries is working with the Cedar Rapids Public Library to make the program possible. It’s called “Read Woke: Be Heard.” Carl Rush, an independent contractor for Fresh Start Ministries and the detention center chaplain, hopes the program can overcome the stigma of being behind in reading ability.
“We had youth groups and Bible studies and I noticed that some young people were a little embarrassed to participate because of their reading level,” Rush told us.
The Cedar Rapids Public Library provides the books to the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center.
“These are the children we desperately want to reach, the ones who deserve our time, attention and support,” said Kevin Delecki, program manager at the library.
The people involved in the program have been so successful that they extended it to run even longer than originally planned.
“You know it makes kids successful, a lot of times our kids haven’t had a lot of success, especially with education,” Williams said.
Not only did the incarcerated teens improve their literacy levels, but the librarians also met with them to record their thoughts on the books. This is an opportunity to have their voices heard by a wider audience, as the audio is shared anonymously in a podcast on Youtube.
“Often they feel like they’ve been thrown away, they’ve been thrown away, they’ve been abandoned. But now they know that there are other people in the community who have a genuine interest in them, ”said Rush.
“I really didn’t know books could be, like, interesting. I didn’t know it could be fun to read, like it was fun to read the book, ”one of the teens said on the podcast.
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