Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sentenced to read

For nearly twenty years a scheme has been quietly growing in the US called "changing lives through literature." You can read about it at

The Guardian ran a piece about it recently:

 It offers those who have repeatedly committed crimes the alternative to a prison sentence: they can instead join a reading group and discuss books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. Robert Waxler, whose original idea it was, reports a high success rate in terms of low percentages of re-offending.

What a splendid, humane initiative!

It just reinforces what we all know: that books really do make a difference. But I do wonder what it means for those who join reading groups voluntarily. If it can prevent people from re-offending what can it do for those who have never offended? Answers on a postcard please.


Stroppy Author said...

The Reader Organisation runs reading-aloud groups in many mental health institutions in the UK (and possibly prisons, I can't remember), and some RLF fellows who are setting up reading-aloud groups are doing so in prisons. So it does happen here, too.

(My own RLF reading group is for a different type of prisoner - people who have been stuck in the house with small children. Re-offending in their case, I suppose, would be having more children. I'll report back on re-offending rates!)

Mary Hoffman said...

Interesting. But CLTL is INSTEAD of a prison sentence, as I understand it.

I hope your reading groups don't re-offend too much!

Sally said...

That is incredible! What an amazing idea!