Children with absent parents will have an opportunity to listen to storybooks read and recorded by their parents through the VoiceBook Project.

The project is coordinated by AmericCorps VISTA worker Chelsea Mann of Dickinson through the RSVP-Plus program.

Volunteers will go into the Dakota Women's Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in New England on Friday, Nov. 5, to record the women reading the storybooks.

"The VoiceBook Project allows for a meaningful connection between the absent adults and a child regardless of distance," said Mann.

Arrangements for the visit are being made by Stephanie Frenzel, LSW, treatment and case management services at the center.

"The idea came from an inmate after listening to a lecture by the RSVP program," said Frenzel. "She asked me about the project and that's when I called Chelsea and got more information on it."

Forty-seven women registered for the project and the list includes 86 children, she said.

"They range from children of the parents, but also can include grandchildren or nieces and nephews," she added.

The recording is expected to take all day, or longer until all the books are read and recorded.

"It's huge for them, and I think it helps keep the family going," she said.

While collecting enough CDs isn't a problem, Frenzel is concerned there will be enough CD players to go around.

"Some of these families come from poverty-stricken homes and they will need CD players to play them," she said.

The VoiceBook Project has a "Charlotte's Web" spider display at the Dickinson Area Public Library until Oct. 31. Likened to angels on giving trees at Christmas, the spiders hold wishes.

"A lot of the parents have made specific requests for books," said Mann.

Along with the books, the VoiceBook Project needs donations of blank CDs and portable CD players -- new or used. Additional cash donations will go toward purchases or mailings, said Mann.

"They will be sent out right around the holidays as a gift," she said.

While the project is launched in the women's correctional center, Mann hopes to offer it to incarcerated dads or military families with deployed parents.

"There's other programs that are similar, but the VISTAs of North Dakota worked together to come up with this for North Dakota," said Mann.

Children's librarian Jessica Un encourages everyone to consider picking up a spider at the Dickinson Area Public Library.

"I think it's a really great opportunity to help children connect with their families," she said. "Reading is such a crucial part of a child's development. It's important to try to connect with them in that way."

Donations can also be dropped off at the RSVP-Plus office located in the T-Rex Plaza, 1173 Third Ave. W.

To participate in the project, contact Mann at 701-227-8421 or by e-mail at Chelsea.Mann