20th June 2011

What is the objective of “Ich lese für dich”?

Imprisoned mothers and fathers produce a CD for their child that narrates a story which they have previously read, not necessarily a good-night story. Above all, the gift should bring comfort to the child by reminding him that his mother and father have not forgotten him, and that they wish to stay in touch. The child can play the CD whenever he wants to hear the voice of his incarcerated parent, which helps to preserve the bond between both family members. Sometimes, the personalized CD can also help to reinforce a parent-child relationship that had been undermined by time spent without any form of contact. In addition the educational aspect of these CDs plays an important role for the children as well as the parents concerned. On the one hand, the story narrated by the parent introduces the child to the world of writing, which encourages the latter to look at books or to read on himself. On the other hand the making of the CD improves parents’ reading skills and gives them a momentary relief from the reality of the prison world.

How and when “Ich lese für dich” was started?

The project was initiated by a teacher who retired before the project was launched and speech trainer Renate Neumann-Herlyn. Both had read a newspaper article about the “storybookdads” project in Dartmoor-Prison in England. After contacting the organization “Storybookdads” for preliminary information, initial support for the project in Germany was won amongst the Citizens Radio, the City Library and Hoppenbank e.V. Bremen, a non-profit organization and Eurochips member that helps prisoners reintegrate into society after their sentences. Hoppenbank e.V established contact with the prison in Bremen, and has been supporting the project ever since, especially with funding.

“Ich lese für dich” started in December 2009 in the relatively small prison for women of Bremen. After 6 months, the initiative expanded to the nearby prison for men, providing the opportunity to imprisoned fathers to participate in the project. Since then, “Ich lese für dich” alternates from one prison to the other every few months. Until the end of May the project was funded by the European Social Fund, and for now it receives monies from the Wilhelm-Kaysen-Stiftung. The project is run by its founder Renate Neumann-Herlyn, who also serves as project manager, and the media teacher Januschka Lenk.

How does “Ich lese für dich“ work?

To begin with, the project and its important deadlines are announced on a poster in one ward of the prison. During an information meeting, the project manager talks with the interested mothers/fathers about the type of CD they wish to make: for how many children? How old are they? Do they have favourite books? The next step is for the parents and the manager to agree upon a first recording schedule: “Ich lese für dich” takes place once a week for about 3 hours, with the participation of 3 or 4 mothers/fathers. In terms of assisting the readers, the project manager may support them by making the parent repeat each sentence after him. Meanwhile, the media teacher records the story, which will then be edited. Generally, the mistakes made by the readers are removed and the voice of the project manager is deleted. The mothers/fathers do not only read a story, but also tell greetings and choose special music for their children. Once the CD is produced, it is given back to the parent who will send it to their child or give it personally during a visit.

From December 2009 to April 2011, 20 imprisoned mothers and 15 fathers took part in “Ich lese für dich” and 83 CDs were produced.


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Author: rmchristen