Cops ‘n’ Kids Literacy Program

Cops ‘n’ Kids in Australia—QuoCKa—and a Testimonial for How It’s Making a Difference

The Cops ‘n’ Kids program is gaining popularity Down Under, renamed “QuoCKa”—for Quota, Cops ‘n’ Kids, Reading Together. The new moniker plays off the name of an at-risk Australian marsupial, the quokka. Here is how QuoCKa is making a difference in Australia, in her own words, by Karen Murphy, Quota International treasurer and former South Pacific Area director.

As you know, the program, “QuoCKa Reading” (Quota, Cops ‘n’ Kids, Reading Together) is accomplishing all its aims and more! However, it’s not the bigger, broader aims that touch our hearts, but the unexpected “little” things that a child says or their little smile that brings the tears to our eyes.

Eagleby South State School: Like the day the quiet little boy in the policeman’s group confided to him at the end of the book (when they were looking at the photographs in the book)—”I’d like to be a photographer when I grow up.” That police officer stopped, looked directly at the boy, and said, sincerely, “and I believe you’ll be the best photographer there is!” At the end of that reading, the boy clung to the police officer’s leg and said, “Please sir, would you come and read to us next week too?” (Yes, both a police officer and I had tears welling up!)

Thuringowa (Weir Rd State School): Sally Sands is the coordinator here, and her husband John is a regular reader too. The children call them “Mr. and Mrs. QuoCKa!” This school has 25 percent aboriginal children, many who don’t get called up to receive a prize, certificate, etc., on assembly, ever. In our program, EVERY child receives a book, so when this little aboriginal boy was called up, he told Sally afterwards…” I never had to go up and get anything before, and I was SO SCARED! I didn’t know if I could do it, but I took a big breath, and I went up, and I did it!” He was so proud of being able to get the book and shake hands in front of others.

At Beenleigh State School: One of our readers (Len) is a grandfather of one of the students there, and his grandson said, “Hello Grandad.” One of the others boys asked, “What’s a Grandad?” Len couldn’t believe it. He explained what a Grandad was. They asked, “will you be our Grandad, too?”—”Yes!” And Len then knew he HAD to come back to the school EVERY week to read with these children, and all the kids then called him “Grandad.”

I’ve been greeted at the front gate of the school with an excited little girl asking, “Is it QuoCKa Reading today?” “Yes.” And she jumped in the air, raised her little fist up, and exclaimed, “Yes! It’s QuoCKa Reading today!” and ran off to tell all her friends.

One little boy at Eagleby State School told John (a volunteer reader, who is a retired school principal) and me: “I’m going to take this book home and put it with my other SPECIAL book!” I was so pleased—thinking that this boy had a section for normal books and a section for special books. John quietly said “I think this is his only other book,” and upon questioning, the boy said, “Yes, I only had one special book before, but now I’ve got two special books, all of my own!”

One mother at assembly told me that she had never thought of buying her daughters a book before, but since her daughter received a book the week before (and was enjoying it!), she’d spoken to her mother, and both Grandma AND Mum had decided that for Easter, they’d cut down on the number of chocolates they would buy and would buy each child a book as well!

Like my “best mate Corey” at Berrinba East State School—Corey was in trouble (again!), and he told me he was known as the class clown and was always getting into trouble. I told him a story about Jake, a boy who used to be the class clown in my daughter’s class, who didn’t do too well at school, but after working for a few years, decided to go back and re-do his Higher School Certificate, and got into university, and now has his university degree and a great job! I said, “Corey—you have that kind of personality that will always make friends easily, and you will be a leader in years to come. I just know it!” He can’t wait to greet me each week, and he is so eager to read and be my helper, and I know he will go a long way in the future—he believes in himself, and that he can achieve things in his life, if he puts his mind to it.

Stories like this week, where a very shy boy, Caine, received his book. He was too shy to come up on assembly and be presented with it and is usually too shy to sit with the group of children to read (usually sits just to the side). Caine was in my group, and I gave him a little toy “quokka” to hold first (we pass it around the group each time we turn a page), and he joined in for the very first time. His book was a real hit (called “Dog Breath, with Hally Tosis!”)—and Caine was the star of the group. He gave me a hug at the end, and he really, really loves his book! Gee, it made my day!

Heartwarming stories, like the generosity of our local McDonald’s Restaurant—they have always been good supporters of our Beenleigh club’s annual Esiteddfod (a music, dance, and speech and drama competition with about 18,000 participants, held over 25 days and nights each year)—when they heard about “QuoCKa Reading,” they asked to be able to support that too.

So, what did we do? We held a “McQuoCKa Night”—for three hours, we organized 25 members, teachers, and police to work at the local McDonald’s Restaurant, and we received a percentage of the takings. We had a coloring-in competition, the brass band played, we had the police reading with the children, the belly dancers entertaining, the children in their skipping rope team, the line dancers showing their style, raffles galore, and we ended up having a great night and raising fantastic funds! The owner asked us to wear some kind of funny headdress, so we made these bright feather boa/flower “hats” for our hair. Only problem was that the feathers kept floating away every now and again, so as we were selling the burgers and fries, instead of asking, “Do you want fries with that?,” we’d ask, “Do you want feather with your fries!?!!” We now do “McQuoCKa Nights” twice a year, and the proceeds totally fund our club’s books to donate.

In another Quota club, their local coffee shop—The Coffee Club—has donated one dollar from every cup of coffee sold over the week to fund their program. We have found businesses to be very generous. They know that reading and increasing literacy is the way forward to give these underprivileged children a chance to step out of their situation. Many are children of third generation unemployed parents. They need to see that a different future is possible.

One of the clubs has utilized some of the local high school students to be readers. They can choose year nine students who have difficulty in reading, and then they have a class that teaches them “How to Read to a Grade Two Student” (which helps their own reading) and the students are given the book the week before to practice it, and then go and read with the grade two students—a “win-win” situation for both!

Some of our schools have refugee students from different areas of South Africa, and these students come here with nothing, and many have a fear of police or people in official uniforms. The joy on these children’s faces when they receive their own book is just beautiful! And, they are sitting up with the police happily having their book read to them. We are breaking down barriers, and this is essential for our future harmony in this country.

One new refugee boy had been very upset at school the previous week, since he was the only boy in the class who was unable to buy the school class photo (and he threw a tantrum of frustration), and he was just SO overjoyed to receive a book on assembly, a book that he could keep forever! He was just so proud! You should have seen his smile!

Librarians have been so pleased with the project, and are so supportive. One librarian told me, “We have over twice as many children borrowing books from the library this year as ever before!” They love the fact that the school library receives a free book from Quota and the student too (Quota pays for this), and the Librarians say that their only problem is “trying to keep up the supply of the QuoCKa books! Every child comes in and wants to borrow them!”

I was reading to some grade two children at Eagleby State School, and the book was about a day trip to the beach. (Eagleby is about a 30-minute drive from the closest beach.) When we do the reading, the children like to tell you little stories about “their dog,” or “their sister,” etc., so with this story, one little boy said, “I’ve been to the beach,” and then a little girl said, “I’ve been to the beach two times!” So, I realized that I was going to have to hear this from the five students in my group, so I stopped, and then there was silence, so I asked, “Have you been to the beach too?” “No, no, no.” I couldn’t believe it. Later I spoke to their teacher, and she said it was just so heart-wrenching to see how excited they were whenever they went on a school excursion, because their parents just don’t take them anywhere.

We had a mixed class of grade three and four students, and they were (very, very) disruptive in Week One. (It wasn’t too enjoyable that week for us!) However, in Week Three, when the reading was happening, I was a “spare” reader, so I was standing to one side speaking with the teacher, and I realized that ALL the students were participating in their groups. Every single child was engaged with the readers/books, and I said to the teacher, “Look at your students! They are ALL so engrossed in their books. They are being so great today!” Then the teacher told me that she had seen a total change in her students over the three weeks of the program. She said in Week One, when she handed out books in the classroom for “silent reading time,” half the students didn’t even open their book. Now, in Week Three, when she handed out books for silent reading, EVERY SINGLE child sat down and started to read, and she couldn’t believe it . She said that many of these children just didn’t know that a book could be enjoyable and had never had someone at home read a book to them, so they didn’t know what to do with it before.

That same school scored a 50 percent increase in literacy levels in one year, according to the Australian Government Testing! All schools who have participated in the program have had a significant increase in their literacy levels.

And, last but not least, is the story of one of our members, Robyn (who doesn’t have any children.) On her first day at QuoCKa Reading, she sat down with her group, and said, “My name is Robyn,” and one little girl said, “My Nana’s name is Robyn!”

“Oh wow, do you know how she spells it?”


“With a ‘y’ or an ‘i’?”

And the little girl said… “N-A-N-A !!!”

Robyn was speechless!!!

(We’ve called her Nana Robyn ever since!)

I hope this helps you come to an understanding of the “essence” of our program. Each one of us as readers has our own little stories of lives that have touched us, stories that have overwhelmed us, and smiles that have swelled our hearts with pride, because we are part of a program that we hope will encourage the children to reach their potential in life!

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