We volunteers are Rosemary, Helen, Red, Kathy, John, Sandy, Ray, Kim, Jackie, Elva, Lisa, Sue, Jim & others. Spring Grass Book’Em–a project of The Big Idea Book Store and now a ministry of an Episcopal church–has been sending educational books, magazines, and quality fiction to U.S. prisoners for years, and we LOVE to do it and inmates love to receive’em, judging by the tens of thousands of letters they have sent us since the year 2000. They are so polite and grateful! We serve them all, insofar as we have money for postage, and the books are usually passed around so that a book may eventually be read hundreds or thousands of times.
And which book is most popular in prison?–the DICTIONARY!–because a person cannot learn from or enjoy a book if they don’t know enough of the words. Prisoners also love almanacs & books of facts (including encyclopedia)–along with every other kind of book there is–history, science, English & all foreign languages, math at all levels, psychology & self-help (especially relationships), law, religion, philosophy & ethics, nature, jobs, how to start a business, trade skills (carpentry, car repair, plumbing, wiring, roofing, heating and air-conditioning), lawns and gardening, farming, real estate, investing, film, art history & drawing, writing, music, beginning reading and GED study books, linguistics, fiction and the classics, biographies and autobiographies, Native Americans, Hispanic culture, Afro-American culture, grant-writing, large-print, knitting & crocheting, chess & puzzles, etc.
Magazines sent include National Geographic, Smithsonian, Photography, Popular Science & Popular Mechanics, & Outdoors, Men’s Journal, Ebony, Native Americas and others. We’d love to have subscriptions to Ms. and Reader’s Digest. Most reading matter is donated or bought from thrift stores and library sales, although we wish we could afford to buy certain requested books online because they are worthy requests.
Many people who are behind bars do not have any money and do not get mail from family, and they often feel that books from us are a miracle–it feels like love to them, that some people “on the outside” actually care about incarcerated men and women, and will spend money to help inmates educate themselves and stay sane. And sometimes we send birthday cards and holiday cards too, as time and funds allow. And a few of us volunteers are pen pals to some prisoners, with more pen pals greatly needed.
WHY is our program necessary when prison libraries exist? Because many inmates are not allowed to go to the library at all because they’re on lockdown, in solitary or on death row—and they’re the ones who may need it most! And one prison library is a pile of books in the bottom of a broom closet, open only once a week for half an hour. And, inmates say, some libraries are full of junk fiction, with little educational and nonfiction for the motivated. Other prison libraries are very good, perhaps, but some are closed because there’s no money for a librarian. So our books-to-prisoners group is really needed–and YOU are needed too, as are donations for postage, dictionaries and other expenses like packing tape, a desktop computer and printer and a photocopier.
Donations are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE thanks to our being adopted as a ministry by the small All Saints Brighton Heights Episcopal Church, with free space and utilities donated by an even smaller church, Christ Hope Ecumenical Catholic Church. Spring Grass Book’Em has been supported the previous three years by a very dedicated disabled veteran, a retired school teacher, and a senior citizen, but many prisoners’ book orders remain unfilled due to lack of postage. This is where YOU can make a difference! Please help us to help them; there’s so much more we could do if we had funding and decent equipment!