First responders across the nation shared their love of reading with children in celebration of National Reading Month in March and Read Across America Day, which is held annually on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). The events were established by the National Education Association to promote reading awareness and motivation.
In Ocean City, Maryland, law enforcement officers were among the public officials who read to students from Ocean City Primary School to promote literacy and the love of reading. Among the stories presented were Mingo the Flamingo and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates.
Principal Cathleen Smith said the first responders demonstrated the importance of reading to students. “We read to them every day, but now they have policemen, firemen, the superintendent and school board members. It really brings reading alive. Everyone is bringing different pieces from their favorite authors, talking about what makes reading important to them,” she told the Ocean City Sentinel.
After several years of Read Across America Day festivities being on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the principal described this year’s as a “grand event, opening our schools up to the community.”
Members of the Ocean City Police Department’s Community Policing Unit were thrilled to participate in this year’s celebration. Sergeant Chris Vivarelli said the reason the officers chose to participate was “because we enjoy spending time with the children in the community.”
“Any chance we get to do something with kids, it’s always a good time,” Officer Jack
Officer Michael Gray chose to read The Good Egg, about an egg who becomes stressed out while trying to get others to do the right thing. “It’s what kids go through. It’s relatable,” he said.
First responders in Woburn, Massachusetts, also had a chance to take part in the holiday. Officers with the Woburn Police Department not only read a variety of children’s books to the children at Reeves Elementary School, but also answered students’ questions about their job. “Being able to engage with students while potentially sparking a love of reading is something we are always happy to do,” Woburn Police Chief Robert Rufo said.
In New Jersey, Detective Judy Torres of the Newton Police Department took time out of her busy schedule to read to kids at Norwescap Head Start.
“I was honored and privileged to have been offered the opportunity and agreed to be part of the Read Across America campaign,” said Torres, who read Police Officers in My Community by Gina Bellisario.
Torres told TAPinto Newton she wanted to give students a positive interaction with a police officer. “I think it’s important. I don’t want them to remember police officers in negative or traumatic situations. I want them to see the human side of us too. Events like these give them that opportunity,” she said.
Officers with the Tustin Police Department in California also visited several schools to get kids excited about reading. Police Services Officer Jennifer Jones even dressed as Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” for the occasion.
Each year, police officers with the department visit one of the nine elementary schools in Tustin to read with and engage with students. This year, five teams of four officers each visited each classroom to read to students and answer questions about their work. Afterward, the officers joined played games with the children at recess and chatted with the kids.
“They’re pillars of the community,” Principal Kathi Denny told Behind the Badge. “Every kid’s eyes light up. They’re role models and leaders.”
In Ohio, one officer is taking the love of reading even further by even penning his own children’s book about life as a police officer.
Huber Heights Officer Nick Lambert said he decided to write his own book — titled A Fun Week at the Police Department — when he realized a lot of the books he was requested to read to children at schools and libraries were outdated.
“Some of the books you read, only had police officers and detectives. That was the only roles that they have. In today’s society, we have school resource officers. We also have equipment, like drones and stuff like that, that weren’t available back in the ’80s and ’90s when a lot of these books were written,” he told WDTN News.
Lambert has been working on the book for over a year, and is hopeful it will be published soon with funding from Kickstarter to help with printing and illustration costs.
“The hardest part was actually just taking the idea and taking the huge step of faith out and making the idea an actual tangible product,” says Officer Lambert.
Maybe officers will be reading his book to children for next year’s Read Across America Day.