Service-Learning in Action: Students, Inmates, and a Storybook Project

Service-Learning in Action: Students, Inmates, and a Storybook Project

Lindsay A. Blumer (Ripon College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0874-8.ch005


This case study explores a unique service-learning program from inception to evaluation through the in-depth examination of community relationships, outcomes students have attained and the ongoing community benefits. The case study demonstrates specific service-learning implementation techniques and reflection processes that challenge students to apply their experiences to their own educational goals and experiences. At Ripon College the Center for Social Responsibility supervises a successful and innovative service-learning program; the Storybook program. In collaboration with the Green Lake County Correctional Facility (GLCCF) this program has college students meet with inmates to select and practice reading children's books on video. The book and recording are sent to the inmate's child(ren) to maintain familial relationships during incarceration. Based firmly in adult literacy pedagogy this service-learning experience has multiple simultaneous psycho-social outcomes for all involved.
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Social Issue Addressed through the Program

While this case study focuses on a specific service-learning experience at a higher education institution it is relevant to briefly describe the social issue addressed in the service-learning experience. Incarcerated individuals in the United States generally attain lower levels of education prior to incarceration and therefore tend to have lower literacy skills when measured while incarcerated (Haigler et. al, 1994). Additionally, significantly more inmates report having a learning disability or a mental/emotional condition than the general population. The proficiencies of inmates with a learning disability are significantly lower than those of inmates reporting no learning disability or reporting a disability other than a learning disability and also lower than the individuals with a learning disability who are not incarcerated. (Haigler et. al, 1994).

One of the educational and programmatic goals of prison programs, including literacy programs, is to create a positive transition back into the general population (Vacca, 2004). Programs such as literacy program that focus on life skills have shown to reduce recidivism and reduce violence among inmates while incarcerated (Vacca, 2004). Likewise, inmates who are involved in educational or vocational programs demonstrate higher proficiencies than those who do not join groups while incarcerated (Haigler et. al, 1994).

More than half of all incarcerated individuals (both male and female) have minor children however a causal relationship between a parent’s incarceration and a child’s quality of life have not been established (Christian, 2009). However there is consensus among researchers that children of inmates are exposed to many risk factors including quality of the parent-child relationship during incarceration and the re-establishment of a parental relationship upon release (Christian, 2009).

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