Lisa D’Onofrio is a writer, facilitator of creative journaling workshops, literacy advocate, festival director and the facilitator of the Read Along Dad’s programs with fathers in prisons in Victoria, Australia.
Today we discuss Lisa’s love of words and books and the influence this has had in her life. From the influence of her parents who were big readers and encouraged her to read books at home and at the library, where this became one of her greatest passions, to the work she now does in prisons facilitating the Read Along Dad’s program with incarcerated people.
Being able to give people the opportunity to express their stories has always been the driving incentive behind the work that she has done. She did a course in professional writing, and then lived in England for 17 years where she found her own way in her career path, before moving back to Australia in 2010 and setting up a children’s literature festival and was asked by the Friends of the Castlemaine Library (FOCAL) to go into prison and run a literacy program in prisons.
This became the Read Along Dad’s program, based on the Storybook Dads program in the United Kingdom, which is a program for those in prison. The incarcerated person, for example a father, picks a book to read to their child and then reads it out loud while it is being recorded. The recording is then sent to the child along with the book and they can read along to the book while listening to their father’s voice. It is now run in two male prisons and one female prison in Victoria. Lisa mentions the courage that is shown by those in prison when reading and recording these stories and the way that it allows conversations to open up between parents and children. Research has been done on the efficacy of these programs.
Lisa also talks about the challenges in running programs like Read Along Dads in prisons, such as bureaucracy but also the importance of rapport and persistence in running programs in prisons.
Lisa also does a creative writing, shared literacy, and book club in prisons and gives people the opportunity to talk about things that are separate to the prison whilst facilitating connection between people.
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