Following a good run, I suspended the Books & Badges program in February 2020, but you can read about what it was below.
In an effort to build relationships between the community and the police department, and to inform police recruits of the serious issue of education inequity, and to improve reading and language skills in elementary school students, recruits attending the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Academy spend an hour a week reading and writing with students in classrooms in several elementary schools in the St. Louis Public Schools while they are in the academy. It is hoped that this will be a model that can be applied nationally by other police departments.
Goals and Objectives
- To enhance the image of police in the community by presenting recruits as positive, helpful role models, which affects children’s perception of law enforcement
- To develop in police recruits sensitivity to and knowledge of the communities, neighborhoods, and children they will be protecting
- To improve reading, language, and social skills of elementary school students
- To promote the enjoyment of reading, writing, and oral communication, thereby increasing confidence and self-esteem
- Build rapport between the students, the police, and the community
Furthermore, Police Chief John Hayden hopes that some of the students will be motivated to become police officers.
Books & Badges started in November 2002 and has also been in these schools: Adams, Buder, Clay, Dewey, Hodgen, Humboldt, Lyon, Meramec, Oak Hill, Shaw, Shenandoah, Sigel, Walbridge, Woerner, and Woodward Elementary Schools. Each school has students who are reading below grade level and have low test scores, and a principal willing and eager to participate in the program.
How It Works
Each Academy class of 25-40 recruits is divided into two or three groups. They are trained to be reading partners and spend 45 minutes with individual students once a week. Before the first visit, the recruits are given training on how to read and write with students to help them be successful and effective reading partners.
A study by Saint Louis University in 2006 determined that Books & Badges provides a valuable service for both the schools it serves and for the recruits. The principals and teachers were overwhelmingly positive about the program and the benefits it brings to their schools. The recruits, in general, rated the program highly and saw similar benefits as the principals through the development of positive relationships with students and learning to form relationships with young people. Evaluation questionnaires given to recruits since the 2006 study continue to support Books and Badges as an effective program. Most of the recruits either agreed or strongly agreed that the students enjoyed reading and writing with them and that Books & Badges had improved police and youth relationships, given them a better understanding of young people in the community and contributed to a better relationship between law enforcement and the schools. As one recruit stated, Books & Badges “opened my eyes to the young as well as the schools that I will be involved with in the future.”