The idea for Women’s Storybook Project originated in 1993 with a program founded by Lutheran Social Services in Chicago. Judith Dullnig was inspired by friends in Louisville, Kentucky, who had a similar program in a county jail. After a year of research, connecting with a social worker within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, finding volunteers and searching for funding, a pilot program began for Storybook Project.
With support from the Outreach Committee at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Austin, Texas, 5 volunteers carried 4 tape recorders, 25 new books, cassette tapes, and padded mailers to the Hilltop facility in Gatesville, Texas, in 2003. The Gatesville area has 6 female prisons and has the largest number of female offenders in one area in the entire country.
Women’s Storybook Project operated under the umbrella of the Austin Community Foundation until 2014, when WSP became a stand-alone 501(3)(c) organization.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, WSP added a board of directors and continued to grow. 2015 brought a change from cassette recorders to CDs and flash drive recorders. Bringing computers into a TDCJ facility was no small task. Once the new process was completed, a warden commented that Judith Dullnig and WSP had brought them into the 21st century. WSP continued to expand to new units and, by 2016, had grown to serve 9 women’s prisons. Strategic planning has led the board to research, hire staff and continue to grow. In 2020, we will continue to expand to additional state women’s prisons. We currently have 2 full-time employees and over 225 volunteers. Our service model utilizes cutting edge technology. Volunteers use digital recording devices to record mothers reading to their children, and the recordings are delivered on CDs or through URLs.