|By G. Michael Dobbs
Mayor Alex Morse and Police Chief James Neiswanger are seen here with some of the books the Holyoke police will distribute to children at its substations and cruisers to help put books in the hands of children and encourage reading.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE Police in Holyoke have many tools to make the city safer and now books for children are among them.
Mayor Alex Morse and Police Chief James Neiswanger announced on April 23 the start of a new program that is part of the city's Early Literacy Initiative. At the police sub-stations, the community policing mobile substation and in the police cruisers themselves there will be children's books that officers will distribute to Holyoke youth.
In a neat display at the police sub-station at 176 High St. was a variety of books for various ages and ranging from picture books to novels to non-fiction.
Andrew Melendez, the coordinator of the Early Literacy Initiative, said about 4,000 books were donated through a book drive conducted by the Holyoke Rotary Club and that more books were given to the city by Links to Libraries.
Neiswanger said officers would offer books to children when they see them and children could ask for books at the sub-stations. He described the program as a "really great partnership" between the police and the Early Literacy Initiative.
Morse believes the program is unique. He said he thought of broadening the access to books at various locations, including police facilities.
Neiswanger said that policing is much more than fighting crime.
"Police officers are much more than just law enforcement officer," he added.
The goal of the Early Literacy Initiative is to boost the number of third graders reading at grade level to 85 percent by 2014. Neiswanger said currently only one in five Holyoke third graders read at grade level.
The chief added that parents should read to their children 20 minutes a day to improve their children's reading skills.
Melendez said the program is accepting children's books. For more information contact him at 210-2945.
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