MILFORD — Anytime Katie Joseph can offer the residents of the Stevenson House Detention Center a chance to read, she is more than happy to do so.
That’s why Ms. Joseph, the school psychologist for Stevenson House — a juvenile justice facility in Milford — was so excited when her residents were given the opportunity to participate in the “Sending Some Holiday Love Book Project” in December.
Sponsored by the organization BreakFree Education, participating residents received children’s holiday books to send as gifts.
As part of the project, they also got the chance to create recorded readings of the books for loved ones or children experiencing foster care.
“I think it’s a fabulous representation of the youth that we have here and to give them the opportunity to give back or to provide a gift to their family,” said Stevenson House Superintendent Katie Kenney. “I think it’s just a bright spot in the day and we really appreciate Ms. Joseph for finding this program and collaborating with us to allow us to do it.”
“We’ve actually worked with BreakFree Education in the past,” Ms. Joseph said. “They sponsor several book clubs where you can sign up for a lottery and they’ll send you free books and resources to run a book club with youth and juvenile justice facilities.
“So, we’ve done a few projects with them before, and they reached out and said they were sponsoring us for this project if we were willing to do it. So, of course, resoundingly we said ‘Yes!’ and that’s how the project came about here.”
A total of eight residents of Stevenson, between the ages of 15 and 18, chose to participate. There were others who were interested in the program but weren’t able to get parent permission before it was completed, Ms. Joseph said.
She said the participants were able to record the book in their own voice and either send it to their own family as a Christmas gift or give back to the community by sending the book to kids in foster care.
“Each resident got to do one book,” said Ms. Joseph. “All of the books the residents read aloud, and we recorded them and put that recording on media to go out with the book — so that could be a read-aloud from the resident to either a family member or to a child experiencing foster care.”
“The project was a great success, provided holiday cheer and was a fun way for youth to give back,” Ms. Kenney said.
The Stevenson House Detention Center is a lock-secure facility staffed for 55 pre-adjudicated male and female youth under the age of 18.
The facility is accredited by the American Correctional Association, a nationally recognized organization that sets standards for adult and juvenile correctional facilities.
Academic education at Stevenson is provided by public education teachers. Credits at the facility can be transferred toward a high school diploma or GED.
Throughout a resident’s stay, staff maintain contact with the family to assist in adjusting the youth’s behavior toward becoming a better citizen.
For Ms. Joseph, helping residents become avid readers is a large part of reaching those life goals.
“Obviously as educators we think that reading is really important and it’s an opportunity for the kids to learn and grow while they’re here,” she said. “So, any opportunity we can have, whether it’s for them or to give back through reading, we’re certainly going to make that happen if we can.”