ConTextos, Chicago Public Library and Walmart Connect Incarcerated Parents and Their Children Through Bedtime Stories


 

ConTextos, Chicago Public Library and Walmart Connect Incarcerated Parents and Their Children Through Bedtime Stories

 
An innovative reading program that uses technology to connect children with incarcerated parents was created by the non-profit organization ConTextos, on behalf of the Chicago Public Library. The new initiative is called “Bedtime Stories.”

“Bedtime Stories” allows incarcerated parents to record audio of a book so that their children at home can follow along. The program aims to alleviate some of the struggles these families are going through, as many young children of incarcerated parents are often forced to confront emotional, social and economic consequences early on in their lives – which can trigger behavioral problems in school, relationships and more that extend long after their loved ones have been released.

The program launched at Cook County Jail – the nation’s second largest jail – with 40 specially curated books that range in age from pre-k to fifth grade. ConTextos has been providing programming for incarcerated individuals at the jail for several years, but this is their first program that centers on children's books. "Many of the people that we work with at Cook County are themselves parents. And of course as parents, like any parents, they want what's best for their children, and recognize the importance of reading together," said Johnny Page, co-director of programming at ConTextos.

Here is how the Bedtime Stories app works:

· Each of the forty pre-selected books are first image scanned page by page behind the scenes in the system.

· Later as these books are read by parents, the audio can be parsed in a way to correlate the audio of the parent to the specific pages.

· At home, when the child follows along with the book, they can point their mobile device at the book pages to cue the reading.

· Augmented reality then brings the parent’s voice to life with a specially created waveform that courses across the pages.


“The idea is simple, incarcerated parents recording audio of a book so that their children at home can follow along. But the AR-enabled technology that supports the program is impressive and complex. It was the key to seamlessly bringing families together so they can enjoy a special moment that so many of us reflect on from our childhood, a bedtime story with our parents, said Andrés Ordóñez, Chief Creative Officer of FCB Chicago.

Walmart is the lead supporter of the program, providing the financial resources to develop the app and to maintain the program with ConTextos at Cook County Jail. “Walmart believes building stronger communities is the path to a prosperous future for all. Here in Chicago, we’ve been investing in communities that need it most, from Auburn Gresham to Austin. The families in Chicago impacted by criminal justice are another community that we support” said Keith Wyche, VP Community Engagement & Support.

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