The first year for the Stories From The Heart program at the Simpson County Detention Center offered through the Simpson County Literacy Center is coming to a close.

"We went to a conference a couple of years ago and I heard about some other literacy, adult education centers, that were doing programs in jail things similar to this so we worked on it here and proposed the Simpson County Literacy Center version of it to the jail here and they agreed to let us come and do it," said Sally Maloney, executive director of the Simpson County Literacy Center.

The program allows residents to pick books bought or donated to the Literacy Center and record his or herself reading. The recordings are then sent to family members, usually the residents' children. Most of the residents at the detention center have been participating in the program since it started in January this year.

Amie Alford, a resident, said her two children a 14 and 15-year-old and her 4-year-old nephew look forward to receiving the books.

"Just anything and everything I send them just so I can get them to read," Alford said.

She said she will read a chapter or just introduce the book for the larger chapter books for her older kids and her nephew he loves anything with bugs, dinosaurs and trucks.

"He's going into preschool now and he really is getting into books now and getting him to sit down for 15 or 20 minutes is great," Alford said.

Family members have told her that her nephew will talk to her voice as he listens to the recording of her reading the book.

She said it is a good way to bond with her children and her nephew. It has brought them closer since she has been in the detention center.

"It is just one more way to reach out and let them know we love them," Alford said.

Idea Musgrove said participating in the program has helped communication with her

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children she wouldn't get otherwise.

"They look forward to the book," Musgrove said. "It give them something consistent that I wasn't able to offer them on the streets when I was in addiction."

She has 10 children ages four to 25 and has sent them all a book at one time or another. Musgrove said her 25-year-old laughed when she received her book.

"It gives us something to talk about too, in like letters and on the phone, so it has helped a lot actually," Musgrove said.

A first time participant of the program, Christina Brooks, said she wanted to send her two children, ages three and four, something small so they could understand.

"I came from another facility that talked about how they helped women here with children and men and I wanted join in so that I could give my kids something in here that I couldn't give them out there," Brooks said. "I wanted to be able to say that I at least helped them get an education even when I was behind bars."

Brooks said the Stories From The Heart program has allowed her to read to her kids, something most moms take for granted. She said behind bars she has nothing, but time to think about her kids.

She said her kids love to read and sing songs to her so now it is time for her to return the favor.

"I'm going to try to send them one a piece this week and then see how that goes," Brooks said. "I'll come back every week because I want to keep this going so that my kids know that I'm here and not to give up."

Maloney said the program is doing well because of the support from the community and all of the participants of the program appreciate the support that allows them a way to communicate with their children.

When they started the program in January they thought they would do just over 300 books for the year, however, at the end of September she said she heard they were just past 800 books.

"This program has really taken off and been very well received and very popular with the residents here," Maloney said.

She credits the success of the program to the men and women who tell other people inside the detention center about it.

The majority of the books for the program come from community donations, Half Priced Books Outlet and monetary donations where the Literacy Center purchases the books with that money. The center keeps an Amazon wish list of books that can take since there are some restrictions on what books are allowed in the detention center.

Maloney said most of their wish list consists of toddler books and baby books made of fabric and the indestructible brand of books, so the kids won't destroy them and they are allowed in the detention center.

"Baby books tend to get used up so we don't get a lot of those," Maloney said. "Those are the books we have the hardest time acquiring through donation, but we definitely have a need for those."

On Oct. 21, the Literacy Center will have a book drive accepting book donations that will run until the end of October. Maloney said there will be drop off locations around the town as well as at the Literacy Center.

The centers goal is to get 1,200 books to cover all of next year. They have determined to do about 100 books a month. Maloney said they plan to keep this program going as long as the jail allows them and the community will still support them.

They are looking for books for all ages from baby to young adult, but no hard backed books.

"We really appreciate the financial support, we are really looking forward to this book drive," Maloney said. "I believe we have served more than 400 families with this program."

For more information, call 270-586-7234.

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