Local nonprofit sends books to prisoners’ kids for Christmas
San Quentin’s library held a holiday book fair event Dec. 2, where incarcerated men were given a chance to mail books to their families free of charge.
Friends of The San Quentin Library, a non-profit organization that supports the prison’s library, sponsored the event.
The group also supports a wish list, taking specific requests from residents and finding books that are not available in the library. In addition the Friends help bring library technology into the 21st century by making laptops and printers available to the incarcerated.
A San Quentin resident had a vision to help incarcerated men be a part of their children’s lives by sending books to them.
“We should look out for the parents of incarcerated children by getting books to their household. And at the same time, we can learn from this event so we can make it better next time,” said Kai Bannon, an incarcerated library worker whose idea became reality.
At 10 a.m., 18-20 men entered the library and began circling the tables in search of books to send to their children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
Due to the limited number of available books, each resident was allowed to send out three books.
“The fact that the books and postage was free to us, when we did not have money to send them to our families—I will remember this,” said San Quentin resident Ralph Flynn.
The titles of the books for adolescents and pre-teens ranged from Dr. Seuss, Tales of a Tadpole, to African Icons, and Science. There was also a selection of books for toddlers, as well as young Spanish-language readers.
Smiles and joy could be seen on the faces of the men attending the event, especially recent arrivals to the prison who have not had the experience of San Quentin events.
“Honestly it is very uplifting. I did not think I would see this type of turn out,” said resident Chad Miller.
The incarcerated were enthused about the opportunity to have an impact on their loved one’s lives.
“I want to send some books to my nephew; he lost his father and has been acting out, so I want to instill some positive encouragement,” said Darin Williams, an incarcerated library worker. “Books can be a getaway to find solutions,” he added.
“When I was at Pelican Bay prison, I encountered two gentlemen that could not read. I spent one hour a day with each of them, just like I taught my children to read,” said Palmer, a resident library worker.
Looking at the big picture, the prison’s librarians showed support for the event, which attracted more people into the library.
“I see the value of this event if parents are not able to be there with their children,” said Gabriel Loiederman, senior librarian.
The event lasted for two hours and the majority of the books were chosen. The library patrons also sent messages of encouragement on greeting cards provided by the sponsors.
“Amazon and Copperfield Books donated the books that were made available to the incarcerated. More books in Spanish will be made available next year,” said Kristi Kenny, a supporter of the event and former bookstore manager.