Incarcerated fathers read to their children through a new program

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – This holiday season, not everyone gets the chance to be with their loved ones like they would want to.

The Penitentiary of New Mexico is looking to change that for some kids with a new reading program that is giving them the chance to connect with their incarcerated fathers.

"The program is called ‘Fathers as Readers’," library clerk Roseanne Andrade said. "It’s a partnership between the Penitentiary of New Mexico and the Santa Fe Public Library."

Librarians help incarcerated fathers read to their kids and be a part of their lives, even as they are unable to see them.

Joshua Perez is one of those fathers. His son is 3 years old.

"He’s like really hyperactive because he’s just a kid but I’m trying to get him into reading."

James Woodward is another. His daughter is 10 years old.

"Now that she’s getting into chapter books, I felt that this was a good introduction."

For weeks, they’ve practiced recording their voices and critiquing their every word to send a very special Christmas present home.

"A lot of us are really trying to do good things and reach out to our families," Perez said. "That’s the good thing about programs like this."

Each kid will receive the book their father is holding, along with a recording of their father’s voice reading these stories.

"It’s a nice change to see this in place," Woodward said. "Not everything is just crummy."

It’s that push for change and to be different that keeps them going. Many of them were never avid readers growing up or before they got in. However, the program has driven them to be more than just better readers.

"I just want to better myself so that way I can be a better person when I get out," Perez said. "That’s really all I wanna do."

Perez and Woodward each have about two years left away from home.

"She loves basketball and I can’t wait to hit the hoops with her," Woodward said.

Until then, these fathers will keep practicing so, come Christmas Day, their kids can still be close to them even if they are far away.