It's been a tough week, but we're hoping we can make you smile. This will be our last Books & Badges post for at least three weeks, as the schools in Ohio are closing, but we've gone on hiatus in such a beautiful way. Columbus Division of Police Community Liaison Officer James Poole organized twelve readings for four different grades at Liberty Elementary School. No, we couldn't believe it either! Three hundred and five books. In one day. Give that man a trophy!
To help with this endeavor, he called on Deputy Chiefs Tim Becker, Greg Bodker, Officer Falacia Dragin (20 Precinct, East Side), and CPD Cadets Victoria Dameron and Taylor Woodruff. Joining them were members of the CPD Therapy Dog Unit: Eddie and Ofc John Gagnon, Simon and Ofc Mike Paulins, and Ollie and Ofc Jon Compson.
The pre-k and kindergartners got to meet the pups and learn about where they came from and what their duties are. One of the teachers said, "I would have just watched Simon sleep and it would have calmed me down." The kids loved them just as much and were still talking about them hours later.
Police officers are often natural teachers, and Books & Badges events are always occasions for them to teach the kids about a variety of issues. We heard topics ranging from bullying to what to do if they're playing and find something unsafe like a gun. Ofc Dragin read "Why Do Animals Hibernate" to the first graders and used the book to talk to kids about protecting their "den"--their family and friends--from people who might want to hurt them. We thought it was really clever how she tied in the bear sleeping in his den to kids protecting their own den.
DC Bodker read a book called "The Truth and Myths About Weird Animals" to the fourth graders. It included a part about bats being nocturnal, and he used that to tell them that some police officers are nocturnal. The children had never considered that and were interested to hear more. When they found out that those officers were sleeping right then, they were shocked.
Something else that shocked them? When they asked DC Bodker if he wears a bulletproof vest, and to answer their question, he knocked on his chest and it sounded like he was knocking on a door. "Do it again!" they chorused.
One of the children was very interested in what the deputy chief would do if he was almost out of ammunition for his weapon and bad guys were still shooting at him. "I'd call one of my 2,000 friends for help. We have a lot of officers in Columbus and one of them would come to help me."
After reading to a room of pre-kindergartners, the kids were invited to compare the differences between Deputy Chiefs Becker and Bodker and Ofc Poole. They talked about the different colors of their badges and a few other things, and then one child yelled out, "Officer Poole doesn't have his hair today!" 😂
Everywhere we went, the officers were greeted with smiles, waves, and fist bumps. They were so excited to have them there. Ofc Poole is very well known. He'd walk into a classroom and almost every time someone would call out his name.
We wish we could tape these Books & Badges events so you could see two things in particular: 1) how excited the kids are when they hear they get to keep the books and 2) how they clamor for the officers' autographs. When one of the officers asks, "Do you want me to sign your books?" They usually don't get to finish the sentence before the kids start cheering. As for keeping the books, it's the cutest thing. They really, really love to take those books home. Something so simple, but they love it.
Finally, we weren't kidding when we said Ofc Poole deserves a trophy. Since our program started in December 2019, he's organized readings for 1,000 kids, with more scheduled. That means he's responsible for roughly one-third of the Books & Badges readings that Starfish has sponsored. Astonishing. So we did exactly that--got him a trophy, which DC Becker presented to him in front of a cheering crowd of Books & Badges recipients.
Don't forget, in the challenging times that lay ahead for us, to look for the helpers. There are always helpers. These officers, and many, many more, are all helpers, and all of you reading this are helpers. We'll get through this. If you have extras, share with your neighbors. If you need something, make a post on social media. There will be someone there to help you. We have always, and will always, come together in times of crisis. It will be OK. 💙❤️