We are starting a new tradition at PBP – the summer Read-A-Thon! Pledge to read a specific number of books, pages or words and ask your friends to sponsor you with donations to the Prison Book Program. It’s kind of like running the marathon for charity – only you are chilling out with a book instead of running 26 miles! All funds raised will be used to mail books to prisoners.
12 year old Isaiah Goldsmith made an unusual choice for his Bar Mitzvah project – collecting books for the Prison Book Program. Isaiah asked his family and friends to bring book donations to his Bar Mitzvah celebration. They responded with a car-load of books which Isaiah and his mom, Jennifer delivered to Quincy recently.
Isaiah talked about his work with PBP and other organizations in his Bar Mitzvah speech. Here’s what he had to say:
Recently the United Kingdom banned the mailing of books to prisoners from the outside in an effort to cut down on the “perks and privileges” available to them. In a protest organized by English PEN and The Howard League for Penal Reform, British authors have sent the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, protest postcards with the name of the book they would most like to send to a prisoner – if they still could.
We thought we would contribute some of our own “favorite books” and what they mean — except these are prisoners’ favorite books. These are the results of a survey that asked prisoners about books and the role they play in their lives. Their responses show that books are far from a perk or a privilege.
Dog Eared Freedom
by Don Brown
I gave away my freedom
When I chose to do my crime.
I will not commit another
By locking up my mind.
I can choose to grow in here,
Like a mushroom in the dark.
I can turn my tiny cell
Into Shakespeare in the Park.
When I start feeling angry
And frustrated with myself,
I know help is never further
Than the books living on my shelf.
There is no dust up on these tomes
And their number is always changing;
From Langston Hughes to Stephen King,
Their topics are wide ranging.
I do not “escape” inside those words;
Escapees must forever run away.
Instead I visit them in their homes
And listen to all they say.
I am very fond of most of them;
A few tell me naught but lies,
But even the most dishonest ones
Often open up my eyes.
I cry for those who cannot read
And the prison sure won’t teach them.
I wish I knew the perfect way
To see hungry minds and reach them.
Stories hold so many treasures
And a poem can heal your heart.
Words take us down so many paths
And books are where they start.