iSchool student develops prison book club

Christinna Swearingen

In her work at a women's prison in Illinois, MS/LIS student Christinna Swearingen noticed that while a lot of the prisoners love books, many of them struggle to read. Her response to this problem was to create a Prison Book Club to engage readers at all levels of ability.

"I teach psychoeducational groups with women on a mental health unit, and these women are often left out of many activities," Swearingen said. "The book club was a way that I could give them something unique and fun. It is set up so there are opportunities for women to read on their own or come to 'readings,' during which I read from the book. We then combine the groups to have a discussion about the book."

According to Swearingen, the book club gives women something to look forward to, as many of them feel time passes so slowly while incarcerated. In addition to increasing literacy and the ability for the women to process what has been read, the club helps the prisoners connect with one another in a positive, respectful manner.

"I would love to someday have a projector to use with a downloaded book, so that those who struggle with literacy will be able to follow the words that I am reading and perhaps increase their reading skills," she said. "I plan on continuing to provide them with the book club for as long as I am employed at the prison, since steady engagement in an activity can be rather rare. I want to be able to give them this outlet for as long as they continue to be enthralled by it."

Swearingen, who holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Illinois State University, describes herself as a "huge bookworm," whose house is overrun with bookshelves. Her love of reading, combined with a fascination for data and technology, led her to the MS/LIS program at Illinois. She isn't sure what she will do after earning her master's degree but hopes her interests continue to lead her in the right direction.

"I would love to be able to continue to create meaningful change in whatever position I pursue in the future," Swearingen said. 

Research Areas:
Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

iSchool researchers present at virtual CIRN conference

iSchool researchers presented their work at the 19th annual Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) Conference on November 8-12. The theme of this year's conference was "Communities, Technology and This Moment." CIRN 2021 explored how researchers and practitioners ethically collect information, including what happens when community information is deliberately not collected and how information systems can be designed "in harmony with communities."

Spectrum Scholar Spotlight: Cordiah Hayes

Eight iSchool master's students were named 2021-2022 Spectrum Scholars by the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services. This "Spectrum Scholar Spotlight" series highlights the School's scholars. MS/LIS student Cordiah Hayes earned her BS degree in communications studies with an emphasis in media studies from Northern Illinois University.

Cordiah Hayes

Chin and Desai discuss conversational agents at TMS Conference

Assistant Professor Jessie Chin and PhD student Smit Desai will present their research at the Technology, Mind and Society (TMS) Conference, which will be held virtually November 3-5. Hosted by the American Psychological Association, TMS brings together scientists, industry leaders, practitioners, students, and policymakers to explore the critical role that psychology plays in the design, use, adoption, and impact of technology and the artificial intelligence that powers it.

iSchool well represented at ASIS&T 2021

iSchool faculty and students will participate in the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Annual Meeting, which will be held in a hybrid format—in Salt Lake City, Utah, and online—from October 30-November 2. The theme of this year's conference is "Information: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Justice, and Relevance." The meeting, now in its 84th year, is the premier international conference dedicated to the study of information, people, and technology in contemporary society.

Huang and students present at CSCW 2021

Assistant Professor Yun Huang and students will present their research at the 24th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2021), which will be held virtually on October 23-27. CSCW is the premier venue for experts from industry and academia to explore the technical, social, material, and theoretical challenges of designing technology to support collaborative work and life activities.

Yun Huang