Guest Blogger

How Juvenile Books Portray the Prison Experience

In 2013 Rebecca Hickman wrote an ALSC blog post about Serving Children Whose Parents Are Incarcerated.   She included tips for making the library a welcoming, non-judgmental environment.  She also identified some book titles that addressed this topic. 

Most people are understandably reluctant to discuss the experience of incarceration.  As I considered ways that children could learn about what happens in prison, I began reading books for children and teens.  The result of this exploration is a new online course that I will be offering with the sponsorship of ASCLA, the ALA division that represents librarians providing service to the incarcerated and detained.

Going to Jail:  How Juvenile Books Portray the Prison Experience, is a four week online course, taught in the ALA Moodle site, which will begin February 24, 2014 and run through March 23, 2014.  The course will provide an opportunity for librarians to read and discuss several books that include scenes in prison settings.  Each week there will be an online books discussion, using the JoinMe platform.  Books that will be read and discussed during the course are:

Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson
Amber was Brave, Essie was Smart by Vera B. Williams
Mama Loves Me from Away by Pat Brisson
When Andy’s Father Went to Prison by Martha Whitmore Hickman

Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

In addition to the book discussions, the course will provide an opportunity to share stories about how library services can be designed for this important under-served population.


Photo of Kate Todd taken by herself

Our guest blogger today is Kate Todd. Kate worked as a librarian at The New York Public Library and Manhattanville College.  She has provided online courses on topics of interest to children’s librarians since 2008.  She can be contacted at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

One comment

  1. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Hi, Kate,
    One new book I highly recommend is the young adult novel JUVIE by Steve Watkins. The course sounds like a valuable one for librarians. Best of luck!

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