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.
- How have books affected you?
- Do you have any specific learning goals? Please describe.
- Besides major religious texts (Bible, Koran, etc.), what is your favorite book?
Here’s what the first 36 respondents had to say…
Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers. And PBP is going to be a part of that. On Wednesday, April 23rd we will be holding a special volunteer night where we will distribute hundreds of books provided by the World Book Night folks to prisoners. If you’re free, stop by and send out some books!
World Book Night is dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person. Each year, 30- 35 books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed World Book Night U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers.
April 23 is the UNESCO International Day of the Book, as well as Shakespeare’s birthday. It was also chosen in honor of Miguel de Cervantes, who died on April 23, 1616 (the same day as Shakespeare). In the Catalan region of Spain, the day is celebrated by giving a book and a flower to a loved one.
Volunteer with us!
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.
A prisoner recently sent us this drawing along with this nice note. “I want to thank you and your crew for the books because without you guys l lot of us in here would be lost or dead by now! Because of the books that you send us give us hope and a new view on life and love. So thanks and may God bless you always, amen!”