Kentucky Correctional inmates help blind children get books

Imagination Library encourages reading in WAVE Country
Updated: Jan. 27, 2017 at 5:19 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Inmates at Kentucky's only female prison are helping Dolly Parton's Imagination Library gets free books in the hands of one million children every single month.

Of the children who receive the gift of reading from the Imagination Library, some are blind. Their books, written in Braille, are made right here in WAVE Country by inmates at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women.

A phone call to the American Printing House for the Blind from a concerned mother brought the issue to light.

"She was a mother who was blind who had two sighted children and she wanted to read to her kids just like any of us," said Gary Mudd, Vice President of Public Affairs for APH.

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APH was already working with the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women to create textbooks. So they decided to add Braille to books through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

When this program first started back in 2011, the children's books were just going to 60 children, now they are going to 1,300.  They hope to reach 2,000 by the end of 2017.

20 inmates at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women work in the department.  Most are certified in reading braille. They turn the print on each page into Braille by entering the words into a computer and then printing it out.  Then they lay the film with the dots on each page of the book.

Inmate Vicki Monroe, who was sentenced to 25 years for murder, works in the department. She says she thinks about the little fingers that will be moving over the dots.

"We know that these little children are learning how to read and they're going to be able to enjoy what everybody enjoys," Monroe said. "They're not going to miss out on nothing."

The women spend about 20 minutes on each book.

"Everybody wins with this," Mudd said. "[It] helps us keep our costs lower, helps ladies out here learn a market skill and kids benefit when they get the books."

Warden Janet Conover says women apply to work in the department.

"Doing this kind of work shows them some type of meaning and purpose while they're here," Conover said. "They can help someone read to their child or have the child read to their parent."

It benefits not only the recipient families but the inmates as well.

"You know it puts a smile on their face," Monroe said.

This program is possible thanks to donations.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is now available in the heart of Louisville.  WAVE 3 News has partnered with the Junior League of Louisville, Delta Dental, the Rotary Club of Louisville, Kosair Charities and the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation to make this happen.  A kick-off celebration will take place Saturday, January 28th at the main Louisville Free Public Library from 2 to 4.

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