“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world.
Love of books is the best of all.”
The Need for Young Children to Own Books
Over 60% of underprivileged children do not own a single book of their own, a dismal statistic indeed. And lack of book ownership and being read to before the age of five results in extremely high drop-out rates for school age children. One of my fondest memories of my early years is my mother reading to me every night before bedtime, sitting on the side of my bed while I snuggled under the covers. Frequently she would also sit in the bathroom while I was taking my bath and read a favorite book to me. I often joked later on that she enjoyed that ritual more than I did, as she had a number of books which she favored and would often want to re-read again and again. I still remember many of them by title, and of course had much of their content memorized. One of the most difficult tasks after my parents passed away and I was holding an estate sale was parting with those childhood books. They were treasured pieces of my past.
Several years ago I was reading an inspirational book by a well-known minister who was stressing the fact that one person could make a significant contribution to the world and change the lives of others, and he mentioned a woman by the name of Julia Burney, a now-retired police officer who worked and lives in Racine, Wisconsin, a predominantly blue collar city south of Milwaukee. One day Officer Burney and her partner responded to a possible break-in at a large warehouse, and when the owner showed up, she and her partner entered the warehouse to check out the scene. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm, but Officer Burney noticed that the warehouse was filled with thousands of children’s books. When she questioned the owner what his plans were for the books, to her horror he told her he planned to destroy them, as they were not salable and he had no use for them. When she asked him if she could have them, he gladly agreed.
After speaking with some of her fellow police officers, Officer Burney held a one-day book giveaway in a parking lot, with the help of her colleagues and other volunteers, and to her amazement every book was snatched up within hours. Thus was born her launching of a program she named Cops N Kids. It took on a life of its own and was to become a successful on-going program, which included weekly reading hours by volunteers in a donated storefront, as well as the continuation of book giveaways, drawing national attention to Officer Burney and her program, numerous appearances on television, including the Oprah show and ABC-TV, with awards heaped on the program and its founder, Julia Burney.
Although Officer Burney has since retired from the police force, her work continues both in Racine, and throughout the country. Other programs have been started using her model, and various clubs and organizations have picked up her lead and organized similar charities and non-profits of their own. One such acolyte is this author, who is proud to be carrying on the legacy of Julia Burney through my organization called Books 4 kids in San Diego, California. After numerous phone conversations with the generous and friendly founder Julia Burney, and her instructional emails, this author is grateful to have found this remarkable woman and continue her work with her blessing.