DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Denise Ray, of Big Canoe, introduced a program called Isabelle’s Book Club at the Dawson County Board of Commissioners meeting last week designed to help children who have been traumatized by separation from a parent who has been incarcerated.
Ray said, “Keeping a source of books available is crucial to lowering rates of crime and breaking generational crime. That’s where we come in. Through the years I have worked with children of inmates, I’ve found that regardless of their age, the issues are the same: separation, trauma, depression and fear. I do this because these children are an invisible population. They are, sadly, often overlooked”
Isabelle’s Books tries to help children who are at increased risk of dropping out of school, engaging in anti-social behavior and higher levels of truancy, aggression and disruptive behavior due to the incarceration of a parent.
It is estimated that 50 percent of incarcerated juveniles have a parent who has been incarcerated.
Statistics show that 16 percent of children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade do not graduate from high school.
Under-educated individuals are at a severe disadvantage of gainful employment. Books change lives. One of the biggest obstacles to literacy is the scarcity of books in the home; two-thirds of low-income families do not own books.
The books are donated by individuals, schools groups that do book drives, Better World Books and corporate sponsor Barnes and Noble. Ray said Isabelle’s Books has been very fortunate to partner with Barnes & Noble.
The books are placed at detention centers in Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth counties. When a child visits a parent who has been incarcerated, they will see a book display and a volunteer who talks to the child’s guardian. With the guardian’s permission, the volunteer gives the child a book or books of their choice.
The books do not have to be returned and they come with tote bags imprinted with college logos to plant the seed of higher education. Kennesaw State, University of North Georgia, Lanier Tech, University of Georgia and the University of Alabama have donated various promotional items.
The objectives are to make reading an enjoyable experience, ensure these children have the resources necessary to continue their individual efforts and offer experiences that celebrate the ability to read and encourage further development of that ability.
Ray said Isabell Books spreads the word via speaking engagements, social media and various local social and civic events.
Isabell’s Books is a 501(c) 3 organization that accepts donations of books and money. All donations are tax deductible. Ray said they are also asking for volunteers.
If you are interested in donating books or cash or volunteering your time, please visit isabelesbookclub.org or call 470-315-2451.
“It’s important to remember that we focus on the children, not the inmate or other parent. They are adults. Their children need extra support, care and love.”