Blue4Books pairs JSO officers with children in literacy activities

Blue4Books, a collaborative literacy and public safety educational initiative for children, began on Feb. 13 at the Brown Eastside Branch Library. Blue4Books, spearheaded by Literacy Pros of Jacksonville and in partnership with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Public Library, inspires children to discover personal empowerment in reading and explore library resources, while affording them interaction with public safety officers in nonemergency situations.

The goals of Blue4Books were developed based on recent research showing which types of programs can best serve Jacksonville youth. Expertise from various agencies was combined to initiate Blue4Books.   

To launch Blue4Books, JSO officers have volunteered to participate in reading and activities developed around literacy. Jacksonville Public Library early learning professionals helped develop age-appropriate activities to enhance each book topic. Literacy Pros of Jacksonville will provide snacks and volunteers to assist with the programs.  Shawn Strange, a professional meeting planner and former Outward Bound coordinator, is program liaison for the Literacy Pros Board and is managing details of the Blue4Books launch. Blue4Books was conceptualized by Janice Gendreau, vice president of Literacy Pros of Jacksonville to help children learn to interact with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and other uniformed professionals in nonemergency, nonthreatening settings.

“Our youth should view public safety officers as real people – moms or dads with dogs and children who fish, ride bikes and read books,” said Gendreau. “We want children to feel safe and learn to share their fears and concerns when they need help. When police officers read with children, the children learn they can trust them.” 

One of the books chosen for Blue4Books is What I Can Be from A to Z, a nearly 40-page colorful art book depicting professions corresponding to letters of the alphabet. The book is written as a poem by Jacksonville retired early learning specialist Deborah Starling Philips. It features imaginative, colorful illustrations by City Kids Art Factory students. The book cover art was done by a gifted student from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Victoria Sherwood. Financial support from the Chartrand Family Fund and Construction & Engineering Consultants, Inc. made it possible for every newborn child in Jacksonville to receive a copy of What I Can Be from A to Z from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. 

Jacksonville Public Library staff helped identify exceptional books to pair with creative activities for the children.  JSO Chief Lakesha Burton lent enthusiastic interest and expertise, according to  Julia Henry-Wilson, president of Literacy Pros of Jacksonville. 

“JSO and the library staff have embraced Blue4Books with full support,” Henry-Wilson said. The Blue4Books programs is exemplary of how good ideas can become great with collaborative partnerships.” 

For information on Blue4Books or to sponsor and support the program, contact Literacy Pros of Jacksonville at 904.210.6677 or [email protected].