To engage incarcerated individuals with enduring lessons, cultural histories, and the complexity of the written language through the reading and discussion of classic literature.


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Restless Books, a 501(c)3 nonprofit publisher specializing in international literature, began publishing classic literature in 2016, recognizing that these enduring stories can continue to serve current and future generations. Through insightful introductions and original illustrations, Restless Classics shake the dust from timeworn stories and prepares them to be experienced a new by contemporary audiences.

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Restless believes that classics like Don Quixote, Frankenstein, and The Souls of Black Folk can teach us valuable lessons about mental health, empathy, social justice, and much more. The Classics Behind Bars program will provide participating prisons with copies of classics like these, and others, along with lessons plans, discussion questions, and instructors, to help incarcerated individuals practice their literacy skills, discover time-honored stories, and learn from our shared cultural heritage.

About the Classics Behind Bars program

Classics Behind Bars is a ten-week program focusing on one classic work of literature, which has been approved by the participating prison and the incarcerated individuals selected to participate in the program. Participants receive a copy of the book, provided by Restless Books free of charge, and will meet weekly with an experienced instructor to discuss the text.

These discussions will encourage participants to connect their own life stories to the texts, in order to illuminate how the past remains relevant and consequential today. Discussions will address themes and topics like race, self-awareness, family, community, and morality.

Participants will be asked to complete and share related assignments, including essays and creative works, such as fiction or poetry, to deepen their connection with the text.