Cumberland County schools are teaming up with local law enforcement to promote literacy in the community and provide comfort during difficult situations.

“Sometimes they are called into crises,” Director of Schools Janet Graham said, adding the officers sometimes had to remove children from their homes. “You’ve seen teddy bears and things of that nature in police cars to help in those situations.”

The school system is providing bags of books for officers to keep handy in their patrol cars. Books can then be given to children to help distract them from whatever event has necessitated law enforcement’s presence. 

“Sometimes that’s a comforting thing for them — to be able to look at a book,” Graham said.

District Attorney Bryant Dunaway explained he had been asked to participate in the Cumberland County Early Literacy Council.

“I thought that is an outstanding idea,” Dunaway said. “As prosecutors and law enforcement, we find ourselves dealing with people who are on the verge of illiteracy.”

He suggested the council work with law enforcement.

“One of the ways to combat illiteracy is putting a book in the hands of children,” Dunaway said.

The school system provided book bags for more than 30 patrol and detective vehicles. All books were donated during the For the Love of Literacy book drive earlier this year. That drive netted more than 4,000 books that are being distributed to children at community events. 

“This is another avenue to have literacy in our community,” Graham said. She has established literacy as a priority in the school system with a goal of having 90 percent of third-grade students in the county proficient in reading by 2025. Most recent data shows only 43 percent of county third-graders are proficient or advanced in reading. 

“It takes every one of us to make sure that literacy is in the faces of our people,” Graham said. 

She pointed to local businesses who have been displaying the “Readers Become Leaders” signs and billboard space provided by the city of Crossville.

“There are just so many people taking part,” Graham said. 

Graham said there are plans to distribute books at the next Friday at the Crossroads, set June 2 from 4 to 8 p.m. They set up in front of Boston Law Office. 

“They will ask ‘How much are they?’” Graham said. “The only thing we ask is that you read and enjoy that book. And then maybe trade that book with a friend.”

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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