Incarcerated mothers represent a growing population within the prison system. Their children face difficulties in social-emotional well-being, cognitive, and psychological risk due to change of guardian, home, and separation. It is important to note that, “there are no federal, state or local agencies responsible for obtaining information about children separated from their mothers due to her incarceration, or what happens to them during their mother’s internment. There are no formal policies in place to inform law enforcement agencies, courts, or welfare agencies about how to keep track of and deal with these children” (Dallaire, 2007).
The statistics below illustrate the difficulty of literacy development and the academic risk factors of children who have either lost a parent to incarceration or have had failure of support from their primary caregiver through shared book reading, as it is difficult to keep track of the children who have lost one or both parents to incarceration.
- “Across the nation, only 47.8% of children between birth and five years are read to daily by their parents or other family members.” Russ S, Perez V, Garro N, Klass P, Kuo AA, Gershun M, Halfon N, & Zuckerman B. (2007). Reading across the
nation: A chartbook. Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston, MA.
- “Children growing up in homes with at least 20 books get three more years of schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parent’s education, occupation, and class.” (Evans, et. al, 2010)
- “Children’s understanding of others’ emotions involves more than just comprehending their words. It includes who is speaking (i.e., familiar or not) and how those words are spoken.” (Stoop, et al., 2020)
- “For children, familiarity with their mothers’ voices can play a critical role in speech processing.” (Stoop, et al., 2020)
- “Since 2014, 73% of parents reported reading aloud to their children before their first birthday.” (Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, 2019)
- “Infants as young as 7 months can distinguish their own mothers’ While mothers are reading to their child, it can provide infants emotional information that they can develop even more as they get older.” (Stoop, et al., 2020)
- “Shared book reading between a caregiver and child helps support children’s executive function and emotion regulation skills.” (Price & Ariel, 2019)
- “The Department of Justice states, ‘The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading ’” (Literacy Midsouth, n.d.)
- “Research shows that reading and responding to literature are powerful methods for dealing with social issues.” (Wiseman, et al.,2019)
- “Literature can encourage adults to examine their feelings in meaningful ways.” (Wiseman, et , 2019)
- “About 75% of incarcerated mothers have children under the age of 18 . . . the separation caused by maternal incarceration can disrupt the attachment bond, create physical and mental health problems, and lead to increased anxiety, depression, loneliness, and isolation for the child.” (Kettnich, 2020)
- “Shared reading provides children the opportunity to hear new vocabulary words and learn the letters that represent the sound.” (Malin, et al., 2014)
- When a parent is able to “engage with their children during reading, their child is able to foster vocabulary growth.” (Malin, et al., 2014)
- “A child’s ability to read can be greatly affected by both parent literacy rates and factors such as the ability of parents and children to spend time reading together.” (Literacy and Love, nd)
- “68% of children in the U.S. do not meet the fourth-grade proficiency standard.” (Zoukis, 2017)
- “The quality of mother-child relationship has repeatedly been implicated as a predictor of and positive buffer for child outcomes.” (Alink et al., 2009)
- “For children who are clinically diagnosed with Tourettes positive maternal input is known to be related to social, language, and play development.”(Seager et al., 2018)
- “Separation from primary caregivers, poverty, and academic failure are all risk factors for developing psychopathology and engaging in criminal activity” (Dallaire, 2007)
- “Approximately 55% of children transition to the care of their grandparents, 20% to their fathers, 15% to another relative or family friend, and 10% transition into the welfare system.” (Dallaire, 2007)
- “A survey of incarcerated mothers in Tennessee found that about a third (31%) of 260 incarcerated mothers reported that at least one of her children had been held back a grade in school” (Dallaire, 2007)
Alink, L. R., Cicchetti, D., Kim, J., & Rogosch, F. A. (2009). Mediating and moderating processes in the relation between maltreatment and psychopathology: Mother–child relationship quality and emotion regulation. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37(6), 831–843. doi:10.1007/s10802-009-9314-4
Dallaire. (2007). Children with incarcerated mothers: Developmental outcomes, special challenges and recommendations. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28(1), 15–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2006.10.003
Evans, M. D., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171-197.
Karen Kettnich and Paul T. Jaeger Libraries and Librarians Onscreen and in Library Quarterly, Part 2, Or, The Greatest Hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and Today!, The Library Quarterly 90, no.44 (Oct 2020): 389–411.
Literacy and Love: Programs Allow Parents in Prison to Read To Children. Federal Criminal Defense Attorney. https://federalcriminaldefenseattorney.com/literacy-and-love-programs-allow-parents-in-prison-to-read-to-children/
Malin, Jenessa L., et al. “Low-Income Minority Mothers’ and Fathers’ Reading and Children’s Interest: Longitudinal Contributions to Children’s Receptive Vocabulary Skills.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2014, pp. 425–32, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.04.010.
Price, Joseph, and Ariel Kalil. “The Effect of Mother–Child Reading Time on Children’s Reading Skills: Evidence From Natural Within‐Family Variation.” Child Development, vol. 90, no. 6, 2019, pp. e688–e702, https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13137.
Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report. (2019). The Rise of Read Aloud(No.7th).YouGov.https://www.scholastic.com/content/dam/KFRR/TheRiseOfReadAloud/KFRR_The%20Rise%20of%20Read%20Aloud.pdf
Seager, Mason-Apps, E., Stojanovik, V., Norbury, C., Bozicevic, L., and Murray, L. (2018). How do maternal interaction style and joint attention relate to language development in infants with Down syndrome and typically developing infants? Research in Developmental Disabilities, 83, 194–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2018.08.011
Stoop, Tawni B., et al. “I Know That Voice! Mothers’ Voices Influence Children’s Perceptions of Emotional Intensity.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 199, 2020, pp. 104907–104907, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104907.
“The Relationship Between Incarceration and Low Literacy.” Literacymidsouth, (n.d.). https://www.literacymidsouth.org/news/the-relationship-between-incarceration-and-low-literacy
Wiseman, Angela M., et al. “‘Mom, When Are You Coming Home?’: Family Literacy for Parents Who Are Addicted, Incarcerated, And/or Homeless.” Language Arts, vol. 97, no. 1, 2019, pp. 36–41.
Zoukis, C. (2017, April 20) Literacy and Love: Programs Allow Parents in Prison to Read To Children. Federal Criminal Defense Attorney. https://federalcriminaldefenseattorney.com/literacy-and-love-programs-allow-parents-in-prison-to-read-to-children/