The Bellingham Police Department (BPD) Literacy Initiative will kick off at a free event at Lee Memorial Park (the Central Library Lawn) on Saturday, August 27, from 10am to noon. Children five years-old and under will receive a free book and the opportunity to interact with BPD officers and their vehicles, do a craft, play, and have a chance to read a book with an officer.
This initiative is a collaborative effort between the Bellingham Police Department and the Bellingham Public Library. The goal is to increase literacy, foster a positive relationship between children and law enforcement in our community, and connect kids with our public library system.
“BPD Literacy Initiative is a unique way for our law enforcement officers to have non-enforcement positive experiences with our children. I am excited for this impactful community engagement opportunity, and I am very grateful for our partnership with the Bellingham Public Library,” said Bellingham Police Chief Rebecca Mertzig.
Research has shown that incarceration rates are inversely related to literacy rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2014), “the U.S. incarcerated population had lower average literacy and numeracy scores than the U.S. household population.” One of the best ways to increase literacy in a community is to increase a child’s access to books, especially for children five and younger.
Law enforcement officers are in a unique position which creates regular interaction with children and households due to a variety of reasons. These interactions create an opportunity for officers to positively impact children, their households, and the community by providing them with age-appropriate books.
On an ongoing basis, Bellingham Police officers will have access to children’s books in their patrol cars which can be given away to children during their daily interactions with the public. These books were chosen by the Bellingham Public Library Children’s Services staff, grouped by age, and are available in several languages.
To initiate the program, the police department applied for and was awarded a Project Neighborly grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation. The grant allowed the library and police department to purchase over 2,000 books which will be given away to children in our community. For more information call 360-778-8751.