ISL program helps connect incarcerated with family, build literacy skills

Since 2000, the Indiana State Library (ISL), in partnership with the Indiana Department of Corrections, has supported the Read-To-Me program. The objectives of Read-To-Me are as follows:

  • Break the cycle of incarceration and low literacy
  • Educate parents to become their child’s first teacher
  • Instruct parents in the use of children’s books to teach the children in their lives
  • Make personal connections with the children during the period of incarceration

Through the program, incarcerated individuals are able to select books to read aloud and send recordings of the readings to family members, whether it’s children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews.

Terry Black processing materials for the Read-To-Me program.

The program was spearheaded by passionate and resourceful former ISL librarians like Marie Albertson and Marcia Smith-Woodard. I now currently serve as the lead coordinator. There are currently five Indiana correctional institutions participating in the program, serving both men and women. I work with the program coordinators inside each of the participating facilities providing the books and supplies needed to record them.

Most books are donated to the state library. Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant funds cover the purchase of CDs, DVDs or Hallmark Recordable books, as well as the shipping materials and postage for each book. A publishing company provides many chapter books and teen-level books. However, donations of new or slightly used preschool level or early reader books are always appreciated.

Materials coming in and going out.

The service is in high demand and growing. In 2016, over 421 incarcerated individuals read and recorded for their children. Within the first nine months of 2017, I have mailed 502 packages.

According to the on-site coordinators, incarcerated individuals and their families are appreciative of the service. Here are some recent anonymous comments:

“My children love the attention I give to them and I’m amazed by the questions they ask. Plus, they are growing, regardless, and the personal connections help their understanding in my incarceration.” – CIF

“It made a difference in my life because I’m showing my sons that I still love them no matter what and I’m still here for them. My love will never change how I feel about them.” – Westville

“I was shy to read; especially into the camera, but now that I did this for my kids I feel a lot better about it.” – Westville

“My grandchildren love seeing me on the big screen TV and when I am reading to them it brings back memories to them. We used to read books all the time.” – Madison

“The Read-To-Me program has kept my grandchildren busy for hours, not only enjoying the story, but remembering the times that I’ve read to them in the past. It keeps us in touch with each other on a different level, and for that, I am grateful.” – Madison

“This program has allowed me to build a relationship with my grandchildren, some I have never met. They can hear my voice and get the opportunity to get a book read to them by their grandma/nana. It has been a true blessing. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this program.” – IWP

After 17 years of the program, I think the program is going very well. Of course, there is always room for improvement. Hopefully, we can continue to support and educate parents to be better readers for themselves and for the children in their lives. I hope to find new avenues to increase interest in the program with positive promotions and incentives. The program could benefit from more funding to provide better quality equipment and supplies. Finally, our goal is to expand the program to the state’s juvenile facilities in some way.

Read-to-Me is supported in part through an LSTA grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This blog post was written by Terry Black. Black is the administrative secretary for the Statewide Services Division. She can be reached at via email

Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government

Ben’s Guide is a scholastic website hosted by the Government Publishing Office (GPO), designed to inform and educate students, parents and teachers about the federal government. The site includes learning activities about Ben Franklin, his life and legacy and information on the government and how it functions. As the first public librarian of the U.S., as well as a printer, Ben Franklin was the natural choice as “guide.” Ben’s Guide utilizes historic documents and resources found within GPO to create this interactive instructional tool.

Enjoy as Ben leads on various learning adventures! Through the completion of games and activities, one will have a better understanding of how our country was founded, how laws are made, the difference between federal and state government and so much more. The learning activities are broken down into age groups: Apprentice (ages 4-8), Journey Person (ages 9-13) and Master (ages 14+). Ben’s Guide features three games: Play the States, Printable Activities (crosswords and word searches) and Branch-O-Mania. The site also includes a glossary to help children understand government terms and teaching activities for educators.

Ben’s Guide was recognized by the American Library Association as a Great Website for Kids. The resource is wonderful for educators wanting to teach children about our country’s founding and how our government functions. The website is another example of how GPO is raising awareness on how the government works for you. Users can make any comments or suggestions relating to Ben’s Guide here. Please take a moment to explore this fun and educational site.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library Federal Documents Coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Continuing education website gets a facelift

The Continuing Education portion of the Indiana State Library’s (ISL) website will be undergoing some changes soon. ISL’s Certification Program Director and Legal Consultant Cheri Harris and Professional Development Office Supervisor Suzanne Walker have been working through the website to identify instances where the same information is listed in multiple places, places where information does not match and pages that are confusing and wordy. “Our hope is to make the website more useful by making it easier to navigate,” Harris said. “In addition to streamlining the way the site is organized,” she added “we are also updating the language and content.”

The website will be updated gently in stages. A major overhaul to the archived webinar page has already been completed. The next phase will tackle the main menus and the initial landing pages and then more changes will spread out from there. The look of the site will mostly remain the same, but watch for a new menu for important forms, more ISL staff on the contact page and the changes to the Archived Webinar page.

“That’s what I’m most excited about,” Walker said. “Now people will have a much more visual experience with our archived webinars. They are now grouped by category with clickable tags to help the user find similar trainings. We have so many great trainings. We will easily hit fifty webinars this year. It is great that people can use the search box on the website to find them and the fact that they are now categorized and tagged makes it almost like a webinar database.”

Here’s a sample of what the old archived webinar page looked like:

Lots of text, arranged by date, with the newest webinars at the top and it linked out directly to YouTube.

Introducing, the new look:

Each webinar has a landing page where ISL can link to additional resources about the topic and each webinar has a category at the top of the block of text (Populations and Programming are shown here) that are color-coded and alphabetized.

Check back often to observe all of the updates.

Submitted by Suzanne Walker, supervisor of the Professional Development Office at the Indiana State Library and co-director of the Indiana Center for the Book.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

Bourbon PL Director, Heather Barron_webI recently visited with Heather Barron, Director of the Bourbon Public Library. Bourbon Public Library is a lively branch bustling with activities. During the visit, I chatted with Heather about the library and the unique challenges and opportunities of working in a small branch; while talking, I found out about a wonderful program, 1000 books before kindergarten that they are involved with. This program helps to establish reading habits and comprehension for young readers.   Continue reading