Every Friday for the last several months, members of the Los Angeles Police Department have been visiting library branches for a special program called Read Along. It was an honor and a privilege to join them this past Friday.
Officer Oseguera addressed the crowd before we got rolling. He gave an impassioned speech about his childhood and how police officers helped him in a time of need. He also spoke about the important role that the public library played in his upbringing. Through Read Along, officers are working on developing positive relationships with the youngest citizens in their neighborhoods while instilling a love of reading and literacy. It's awe-inspiring. They worked closely with the librarians to craft this endeavor, even putting themselves through the read-aloud training the library offers volunteers. (They knew a lame reading would tank the program.)
When I learned about the statistics of the area surrounding the library we were in, I was flabbergasted. About a 50% high school dropout rate and roughly 150 homicides per year. Makes you realize that public libraries aren't just a resource but a REFUGE for these kids.
I traveled to LA just for the day because I wanted to see what they were doing first hand, and it left an indelible mark on me. Walden Pond Press brought two-hundred copies of Platypus Police Squad: Never Say Narwhal to gift to the young readers in attendance. The smiles on their faces as they were handed books will carry me for years to come.
Along with my publisher, Walden Pond Press, I've been encouraging libraries and police departments to work together though reading-aloud initiatives. The LAPD created their program contingently to our efforts, but I am so glad that we were able to link up. I've seen officers and librarians working together in various towns across the country, and I hope that you would consider building a similar setup in your public or school library. But where to start? Look for the link that I'll post in the comments section to help get you started. We created a brochure that offers tips and a reader's theater from Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked.