6 Books for children with incarcerated parents

Six Books for Children of Incarcerated Parents

More than seven times as many people are incarcerated in the United States than in all of Europe. And the racial composition of the state and federal prison population in the U.S. is grossly disproportionate with 44 percent of the prison population being African American and 35 percent Caucasian, while African Americans only make up about 14 percent of the general population.


The main victims of the prison boom are minorities, particularly African American men, who are eight times more likely to have served time in prison than white men. The effects of mass incarceration extend beyond the prisoner and his immediate experience of confinement, and can have a significant impact on the prisoner’s family.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 2.1 percent of children under age 18 have at least one parent who is incarcerated. In 2000, 2 million children had incarcerated parents, a number double that of what was reported in 1991. Sadly, this does not affect all communities equally, as African American children are nine times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent.


As their numbers continue to grow exponentially, American children with incarcerated parents have gained increased attention and support. Several authors have written books to assist these children with their special needs.  Listed below are some top picks.

My Daddy Is in Jail: Story, Discussion Guide, and Small Group Activities for Grades K-5
Author: Janet M. Bender (YouthLight, 2003)

My Daddy is in Jail is a resource for helping children cope with the incarceration of a loved one. It includes a read-aloud story, discussion guide, caregiver suggestions and optional small group counseling activities. With this book, professionals and other caretakers, will find themselves better equipped to provide information and support to these vulnerable children and their families.

Visiting Day
Author: Jacqueline Woodson (Scholastic Press, 2002)

A little girl and her grandmother get ready for visiting day. As they make their preparations, the girl’s father–who adores her–is getting ready too. Features an African-American family.

What is Jail, Mommy?
Author: Jackie Stanglin (Lifevest Publishing, 2006)

This book was inspired by a five year old whose father had been incarcerated most of her life. One day after visiting with friends who have both devoted parents in the home, this little girl blurted out to her mother in frustration, “What is jail anyway, and why can’t Daddy be home with us?”

The Night Dad Went to Jail; What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail (Life’s Challenges)
Author: Melissa Higgens

When someone you love goes to jail, you might feel lost, scared, and even mad. What do you do? This story can help you through the tough times.

When Andy’s Father Went to Prison
Author: Martha W. Hickman (Albert Whitman & Company, 1990)

A factual yet sensitive picture book about a boy’s father being sent to prison. It is the detailed story of the sobering event. One feels the quiet sadness Andy experiences in first discovering his father is guilty of a crime, and then the harder task of facing the day-to-day changes this fact has made in his life.

Romar Jones Takes a Hike
Author: Jan Walker

When his 9th grade language arts teacher tells him to pay attention to the poetry assignment or take a hike, Romar opts for the hike, walks out of Roseburg Oregon High School and embarks on a journey to find his mother. He figures that shouldn’t be too hard. She’s in prison in Washington.

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