It was quite a sight watching the Cleveland police officer who was wearing all the hardware associated with his profession open a book and begin to read in a soft and understanding voice. "Honk your horn when you're ready for the bulldozer," he read, using his best Mister Rogers type voice.
With wide eyes, the children who were seated around him listened intently. "Start up the bulldozer," said the police officer, reading from a colorful book which was filled with illustrations to accompany his story.
The officer was part of the Cleveland Police Department's Little Free Library program. It was unveiled at the new Third District Police Headquarters on Chester Avenue. A thousand books were brought in by students from Chardon Middle School. The books are part of a program run by the FBI Citizens Foundation and Cleveland Police. Along the way, the Carpenter's Union transformed part of the building into a library for elementary school children.
"It's definitely about reading," said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, "but it's also about police-community relations with our own folks."
Williams spoke passionately about the idea of serving the people of Cleveland. Including the little children. Students from Chardon Middle School collected the books to be shelved in four Little Free Libraries set up in police district headquarters. The idea is to give youngsters a place to read if they accompany their parents to a police station.
"When the kids come into the district, we want them to read a book rather than just sit there and do nothing," said Williams. As well, the students can take the books home for keeps.
As well, police know that the more students learn and the more literate they are, the less crime they commit in their later lives.
As the kids sat around the police officer who was reading about construction vehicles being used to build a new road, they listened intently and watched with wide eyes. This was community relations at its best. The book was about one story, but the event itself was about another story -- that of the cops and the kids.