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Books inspire change at Waikeria Prison’s book club

Books inspire change at Waikeria Prison’s book club

Thirty prisoners from Waikeria Prison’s Karaka Unit recently held their second Book U Night, which is a prison-style revamp of the traditional book club.

The initiative, launched by Prison Librarian Leigh Gleeson, is prisoner driven and aims to help prisoners connect to books specific to their journey which can inspire and motivate positive change.

Prison Director Kevin Smith is supportive of the idea, which does more than just encourage a love of reading:

“Standing up and talking in front of a group of people can be a daunting idea but it is also a really useful skill to be able to do well. Presenting at a Book U Night engages prisoners to explore language, conceptualise ideas, and build confidence through public speaking.”

The prisoner who led this Book U Night found the experience extremely positive and has since realised his potential – he is now borrowing books on public speaking and sharing his own motivational story.

This prisoner was inspired by the story of Chef Jeff Henderson and selected two of his books to present: If you can see it, you can be it andCooked: My journey from the streets to the stove.

Chef Jeff has a story to tell: from wealthy drug dealer, to felon, to celebrity chef, author, inspirational speaker and TV star.

“Being able to relate to Jeff’s background and experiences enabled the speaker to convey a message of future opportunity, supporting treatment and embedding realities with a passion,” says Kevin.

“Book U Nights appeal to the men as no two talks are the same, with different themes, authors, and speakers.”

A number of prisoners have expressed an interest in being Book U Night leaders on topics and books they have an interest in. We wait with eager anticipation for the next instalment.


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