Physical Space Changes

“My 6-year-old daughter and I start each visit by choosing and reading a book together. Before visits were awkward and hard to start, and now it is a pleasant, relaxing way to get the visit going.”
– incarcerated parent

“What excites me the most is giving tokens to the kids. I love seeing the kid’s excitement and the parents being so appreciative of the book their child receives.”
– security staff, Dane County Jail


This strategy creates child-friendly, literacy-enriching and welcoming environments for jail visits involving children. Children in justice-involved families may spend a lot of time in visiting rooms and waiting areas, either to visit their parents or to wait as parents visit each other or meet with providers. These spaces can be scary and stressful for young children, as well as visiting caregivers too.

In many jails now, people don’t visit face to face. They visit through a screen over kiosks. There are many reasons for this, including security. For parents of young children, struggling to hold them, entertain them, or even put them down somewhere is often challenging and difficult. The Literacy Link and community partners are working to enhance these spaces to create a more child-sensitive environment that promotes literacy and learning.

Child-friendly visitation areas provide children a comfortable, welcoming space to sit and look at books during an otherwise stressful time. Children receive a free book to take home so they can build their own library. This visitation space features wall decals, information about local libraries, and posters with words for children in English and Ojibwe language, and many selections with cultural themes including books by local indigenous authors.

This is an old candy vending machine that was transformed into a book vending machine. It is a safe and secure way to distribute books in the visitation space. Young children receive a token each time they visit and can choose a book and watch it drop from this machine. They can read it during the visit and take it home – thus building home libraries at the same time.


  • Child-friendly environments create a more positive experience for children, their caregivers and parents, and jail staff.
  • When children feel comfortable visiting and engaging with their jailed parent it helps to maintain and strengthen the parent-child relationship.
  • When children can see and engage with their incarcerated parents it helps to reduce their sense of abandonment.
  • Provides literacy-rich activities and books for children to engage in while visiting their incarcerated parents, increasing their access to literacy-building experiences.