Pooks sitting in a hard hat, is making a difference to several people's lives.

The book ‘Pooks the Pukeko’ was written by prisoner Tom* at Rimutaka Prison with the support of the Howard League For Penal Reform’s Literacy Programme. Retired teachers are normally recruited to visit prisons where they tutor prisoners to increase their literacy levels and everyday interpersonal communication.

Tom, who has since been released from prison, spent 10 weeks working with a Howard League tutor in Rimutaka Prison. While he had a good level of reading already, Tom wanted to write something that he could read to his young children. With the help of the tutor, Tom wrote and illustrated a book about Pooks, a plucky pukeko who went walkabout looking for a home.

Julie Clifton, Rimutaka’s volunteer co-ordinator said Tom benefited greatly from the tutor’s help. “The tutor helped Tom to storyboard and plan his book and use words suitable for children. It has boosted his confidence and has been a great accomplishment for him.”

Howard League CEO Mike Williams says it was a good example of how literacy programmes in prison can make a difference to more than one person’s life.

“Not only did Tom get some great skills, his children benefit through a uniquely authored and illustrated children’s story.”

Corrections figures show that 71 percent of prisoners lack the literacy skills to successfully manage in modern society. Corrections is committed to increasing the literacy and numeracy levels of prisoners. Doing so will reduce one of the major barriers to educational achievement and finding sustainable jobs on release. Programmes like those delivered by the Howard League can contribute to the Department’s goal of reducing re-offending by 25 percent by 2017.

The first official graduation ceremony for the Howard League Literacy Programme was held at Spring Hill Corrections Facility on Friday 14 February.

Howard League CEO Mike Williams, Chairman Tony Gibbs, and Patron Dame Cath Tizard attended the ceremony and spoke about the value of literacy in both their own working and family lives.

The graduate’s family was also present and his children had the opportunity to have their father read to them. A DVD recording of the prisoner reading story books for the children was presented to them at the ceremony to take home.

Currently around 60 prisoners are taking part in the programme across New Zealand prisons.

*not his real name.