December 29, 2014 – Judy Yates is a survivor. After coming through both a cancer diagnosis and the death of her husband within a year, Yates was determined to give back. That determination ultimately lead her to the Reading Legacies program at CCA San Diego Correctional Facility in San Diego, Calif.

“I love reading, I love kids and I love family, so a program that pulls all three together was perfect for me,” Yates said.

The Reading Legacies program allows incarcerated parents to record themselves on DVD reading a story for a child at home, providing a unique way to maintain their special bond.

“Day-to-day life without a parent can be sad and confusing,” Yates said. “Just imagine the thrill on a child’s face when he or she sees and hears a bedtime story from mom or dad.”

The Reading Legacies program is separated into two groups, one for women and one for men. Participants and their families must submit paperwork to participate and CCA conducts screenings to ensure there are no legal issues barring contact between parent and child. Once all is approved, parents are given the chance to read through a book. According to Yates, it’s at this point the parents become the most emotional.

“I have seen many men break down in tears,” Yates said. “But we talk about it in the group and suggest they explain to their child that they are not hurt but just so happy to be able to share a book with them.”

Yates finds that participation in the program affects individuals on a personal level, helping them to self-identify as parents again rather than just detainees. The benefits for their children are just as profound.

“One child sleeps with the DVD under her pillow to be closer to daddy, another family makes popcorn and has movie night with dad,” Yates said. “At the end of the story, mom or dad says how important it is to keep reading. It just doesn’t get better than that.”

Yet, Yates admitted that the benefits she receives are just as significant.

“When you do something for someone other than yourself it’s an awesome feeling. To think that you are helping a parent and child either to reconnect or stay connected – it makes me grateful to be involved in such a wonderful program.

Chaplain Claud Bery applauded her dedication. “She is everything a chaplain could ever hope for in a community volunteer,” he said. “Loyal, dependable, consistent, inspirational, responsible, trustworthy, a blessing to all.”

Reprinted from

Nicole Vargas

My name is Nicole Vargas. I joined the Reading Legacies team in January 2023. I have a BA in Child Development from Point Loma Nazarene University and 6 years’ experience working with children from ages infancy to adolescence. My role as the Storybook Readers Program Manager is to oversee the programing and implementation of our Youth Readers and Storybook Inspirations programs. As a child development professional, I have firsthand experience seeing the immense impact that reading aloud to children has on their early literacy skills and relationship building within the family and community. One of my favorite children’s books is If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff. 
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