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Kansas City police officers spend lunchtime reading with kids

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tuesdays are a special day during the school year; it’s when volunteers come to Phillips at Attucks Elementary School, 2400 Prospect Ave., to read with students in 1st through 3rd grade.

Those volunteers include more than 80 members of the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, who spend their lunch hours reading with a student in the ‘Lead to Read’ literacy program.

The program has 1100 volunteers who read with 1100 students every week.

“It’s really a big relationship builder and that’s what these kids truly value,” said  Pauly Hart, Lead to Read Executive Director..

Last year was the first year to partner with the KC Police Department, and they had 11 people sign up to volunteer. This year, they have 80 police officers and department employees.

“Our readers come in and they read with the same student each week. The kids come to love the volunteers. The volunteers love the kids. It’s really quite magical,” Hart said.

Lead to Read is aimed at improving 3rd grade literacy.

“The first time they come in, the kids’ eyes get all big and they’re ‘Oh! Do I get to read with a police officer?’ but in the end what we’re doing, we’re just turning these police officers into regular people,” Hart said. “They get down on a bing bag chair, they sit at a kids desk and they just become real people. We’re truly, I think helping develop a good relationship between our urban youth and our law enforcement community.”

The volunteers serve in four school districts across the metro, and is Kansas City Public School’s largest group of volunteers. Volunteers come from area businesses, organizations and churches each week to read with and mentor students

“These are people who are from all over the metropolitan area. They literally give up a lunch period to come into our building on Tuesday mornings and work with our 1st and 2nd grade students,” said Deloris Brown, principal of Phillips at Attucks.

“Our boys and girls have an opportunity to see police officers in a very different light.  They’re seeing them come into our schools on a social occasion to read with them,” she said.