Family literacy in prisons: fathers’ engagement with their young children

Cathy Nutbrown, Peter Clough, Lynsey Stammers, Nadia Emblin, Summer Alston-Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper reports an original approach to family literacy in two UK men’s prisons. Brief consideration of family literacy research precedes consideration of specific issues of imprisonment and literacy, and recent initiatives for incarcerated fathers. The significance of the study lies in the demonstration that theories of early literacy development can successfully be shared with imprisoned fathers, and related practices incorporated into the literacy-oriented family visits. A rigorous interpretivist approach highlights the importance of prisoners learning about children’s early literacy development. Although the opportunity to see their children provides a strong motivation to enrol on the programme, the paper argues that the men’s manifest engagement with the ideas and activities in the workshops and the literacy-oriented family visits indicate successful programme adaptation: primary success lies in influencing fathers’ concern to support their children whilst incarcerated, though impact on their resolve to desist from crime and re-establish their fathering roles is also notable. Implications for policy and practices to enhance incarcerated parents’ involvement with their children’s developing literacy are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-191
    Number of pages22
    JournalResearch Papers in Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2017

    Bibliographical note

    © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License
    (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
    provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way


    • Prison
    • prison education
    • fathers
    • early literacy
    • family literacy


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