Can reading and discussing Socrates or Of Mice and Men in a classroom transform a person? Change his perspective, push her to think more critically or reflect differently?
For many of us who have been positively impacted by our academic experiences with literature, we’d readily say yes. But what about someone who didn’t have access to AP English in high school, who hardly felt welcomed by the classics at all because he reads at a 3rd grade level and was accordingly never given the opportunity to engage with such books?
Over These Prison Walls is all about the power of literacy–making it enjoyable, and accessible, to youth in detention–and so it is very cool to see an article from the Guardian that one of our students, Sam, sent along: Novel Approach: Reading Courses as an Alternative to Prison. It profiles an impressive new program being implemented in Texas, called Changing Lives Through Literature–an alternative sentencing program “based on the power to transform lives through reading and group discussion.”
CLTL is (from their website) “essentially a reading group that meets over a period of weeks and that is attended by an instructor, probation officer, judge, and students … CLTL has the ability to allow us to make connections with the characters or ideas in a text and to rethink our own behavior.”
It is truly heartening that the simple yet profound acts of reading and discussion are being recognized by judges as a legitimate sentencing alternative, and an essential part of a more effective rehabilitation system.