A book drive for prison literacy programs is at Urban South Brewery Sept. 9



YLC literacy advocacy group One Book One New Orleans (OBONO) hosts its annual book drive benefiting Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners (LAB2P) at Urban South Brewery Saturday.

That day, the group welcomes donations of new and gently used paperback books only — hardback books are not permitted in prison libraries — at all reading levels. Everyone age 21 or older who donates at least one book will receive a free beer from the brewery, and food from a food truck is available for purchase.

Participants also can donate composition-bound notebooks and dictionaries, which OBONO project leader Megan Holt says are some of the most-requested items in letters from incarcerated people.

"[Dictionaries are popular because] you will see people trying to get a GED, and they will need some help working on the vocabulary section of that test; or you may see someone who is trying to work with their attorney on their appeal and is having trouble understanding their court papers," she explains. "So many people who are incarcerated struggle with low literacy issues."

Holt says studies show prison literacy projects decrease the chances of people returning to prison after being incarcerated. (According to one RAND Corporation report, literacy projects can contribute to improved employment prospects for formerly incarcerated persons, thus decreasing the chances of recidivism.) But she stresses that incarceration affects people at all education levels, so a wide variety of books are needed.

"You could be at any education level and still fall into the criminal justice system. ... [Books for donation] could be very easy, sort of young-adult books, or they could be James Joyce's Ulysses. I've seen requests for both," she says.

OBONO also will join LAB2P at its weekly work night at its Gentilly office (2523 George Nick Conner Drive) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday to read letters from incarcerated people and process book donations. Anyone interested in volunteering is welcome to attend, Holt says. OBONO hosts several other readings and events throughout the fall.

The book drive takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9. Admission is free.

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