Cops ‘n’ Kids Literacy Program

Start a Reading Room

Help ensure that ALL children have the opportunity to explore their full potential. Start a Reading Room in your community where at-risk children are introduced to the adventure and creativity that is received from reading and develop skills that will last them a lifetime. Tie in positive interaction with police officers to help the children develop a more trusting relationship with law enforcement. All involved will be inspired! Read in their own words how two Quota clubs started their reading rooms.

QI of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
By Gloria McMahan, Secretary/Treasurer, District 7

  1. Tie your reading room locations into an overall strategic plan for Cops ‘n’ Kids program delivery. Our overall strategic plan is to focus on the central area of our city. This includes neighborhoods in the federal “Weed and Seed” program. If others are familiar with that Housing and Urban Development program, they may be able to determine similar areas in their city. Meet regularly with the police department to ensure that your strategic plan aligns with the police department’s strategic plan.
  2. Reach out to existing neighborhood groups in defined area. We have established five reading corners in three neighborhoods and are in the process of connecting with two additional neighborhoods.
  3. Locate the reading room in an existing facility. This will expedite establishing the room, reduce overhead costs, and establish an ongoing connection with another community organization. We are finding that establishing the reading rooms (we call them “corners,” because in most cases they are not a separate room) in a facility that the neighborhoods either sponsor or utilize is the best strategy. Three of our “corners” are in neighborhood resource centers—one is an old church, two are in older houses in the neighborhoods. A fourth corner is in a police sub-station, and a fifth is in a neighborhood teen center. In one case, we co-sponsor the reading room. Boys and Girls clubs or schools are other ideas.
  4. Look for a corporate sponsor to furnish the reading room/corner. We are fortunate to have a connection with a local company (one of our members works there) who has been very generous in donating surplus office furniture (i.e., bookcases, chairs, table, credenza, bulletin boards, etc.). We painted the bookcases bright colors and supplemented with child furnishings, rugs, etc.
  5. Establish a liaison for each reading room/corner. We are working on a team approach to ensure that there is always an adequate book supply at the corner, that we keep statistics (for grant requests), and that we know about neighborhood events and other special needs of the neighborhood. Our team consists of a Quota member representative, a police department representative, and a neighborhood representative.
  6. Create publicity materials to advertise the location(s) of your reading rooms/corners and Quota’s contribution. Here’s a sample book insert our club uses to promote our program. Of course, any chance you have to publicize the rooms in other ways is also desirable; i.e., we always tie our Cops ‘n’ Kids program into our annual golf tournament. Golfers get a free “mulligan” for bringing in gently used books, and we have a chance to highlight the Cops ‘n’ Kids program.

QI of Wilmington, Delaware
By Susanna Mays, Past Governor, District 10

Remember—literacy appeals to everyone, and helping children to learn to enjoy reading isn’t a hard sell. Just be prepared and be enthusiastic!!

  1. Set up a meeting with your mayor, city council, and/or the police chief. We started with the Chief of Police in Wilmington and went from there. In order for the program to be a success, first the police, and then the town leaders need to support it.
  2. Know the program and its history and be prepared to tell those present how the program will benefit THEM as well as the children in their community. Benefits such as positive versus negative publicity for the police department and great public relations for both the police and the leaders will grab their attention as a starter.
  3. Have handouts with you so that you can leave something with them that contains all the key elements of the program.
  4. REMEMBER, to point out at the outset that this program will not cost them ANYTHING! That is always a major concern. Quota will get the books, deliver the books, replenish the books, etc.
  5. If you can, show Julia’s video–it touches everyone!
  6. Ask for assistance from this group in locating a space that will be safe and accessible for the children. A PAL center or community center would be great!
  7. Don’t forget to bring the person(s) who runs the facility where the Reading Room will be located into the discussion as soon as possible.
  8. Avoid taking ownership of the room–after all we are a community service organization and even though we put a lot of effort and hard work into getting the program up and running, the Reading Room does not belong to us! We are there to serve.
  9. Make sure you have a source to replenish the books on a regular basis. We did not let the children take books home based on the original Reading Room model in Wisconsin.
  10. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the Cops ‘n’ Kids Founder, Julia Burney. She is truly a fantastic and accessible person and will help in any way she can.
  11. You will need someone to furnish the room. In our case I met with the local Ethan Allen store and they agreed to furnish it at no cost. If that isn’t possible, there are many resale stores, etc., that you could use to do so.
  12. Bookcases will be needed. You can either find someone to donate them, or, as in our case, we paid a carpenter that was recommended to us to do so.
  13. Invite a school librarian to come to the room and offer suggestions as to how to set up the books, what types of books should be included for what age groups, etc. We did that and it worked very well.
  14. The Reading Room offers innumerable opportunities for members to share their talents. In Wilmington our Quota member and local artist, Nancy James, created Lil’ Bones who is now the International Mascot for the Cops n’ Kids Program within Quota. There is some way each member can contribute from reading to children, to purchasing books, to decorating, etc.
  15. Sometimes it will require members to roll up their sleeves and do some painting, cleaning, etc. Our club painted the room and did a very good job, I might add!
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