Inmates at the Gowanda Correctional Facility (Erie County) are heavily engaged in a competition that is resulting in drastic improvement to their reading skills. The competition, known as the “Book Showdowns,” is the brainchild of Senior Librarian Corinne Leone and combine reading comprehension, teamwork and rivalry. The goal is to increase reading comprehension, and at the same time, help inmates score higher on their high school equivalency exams.
Staff coaches have devised various creative methods for improving their team’s skills. Some hold mock showdowns for practice and to generate enthusiasm, while others show movies that feature related subject matter to help reinforce the content of the book. Some teams have also invented character trivia games to increase reading comprehension and memory retention. Leone and the other staff coaches have also noticed that some of the more advanced readers readily help some of their less-skilled team members however they can.