Members of the Cleveland Police Department made their way to Willard Head Start Center to read to students earlier this month as they’re continuing another year of the Friendship Through Reading program. The 2017 OACAA/Glenn College Exemplary Program Award-winning initiative shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The collaborative effort between CEOGC and the Cleveland Police Department began in 2016 as a way to promote positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve. It’s been fruitful for both law enforcement and the students.
“We really love going into the sites and reading to the kids,” said Tim Higgins, First Sergeant of Community Policing in Cleveland. “We get the opportunity to interact with the children, helping them to see our humanity. We are more than just law enforcers.”
Young children are impressionable. They carry no bias or predetermined conclusions of others. This reality is why the Friendship Through Reading program was created. The program brings uniformed officers to each of the Council’s 11 Head Start Centers each month throughout the school year, to read from a list of books curated by Dr. Thea Wilson, CEOGC’s VP of Children & Families. Kids get the value of reading with officers in an environment that enables them to dream of what they could one day become.
“It’s important to us that we emphasize the power of literacy and knowledge,” said Higgins. “The more knowledge you possess, the more powerful you become. No one will be able to take that away from these students; that’s why we’re here while they’re still young.”
As the officers read, the children become more and more engaged as having the policemen and policewomen there garners a level of excitement that is often irreplaceable.
In addition to the program, Cleveland police are also helping children grow a love for reading by partnering with a program called, the Little Free Library. This nationwide initiative gives Cleveland’s inner-city youth an opportunity to grow in literacy by providing small boxes in various locations where people can donate & checkout books completely cost FREE. CEOGC’s Villa Head Start Center is home to one of these small libraries.
“Our goal is to emphasize this: learning is knowledge and knowledge is power,” said Higgins.