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It’s a Crime Not to Read

Calgary Public Library

Innovation Leader: Jean Ludlam, Manager, Services for Children, Teens and Families, Jean.Ludlam@calgarypubliclibrary.com

Problem Statement

Research identifies a strong link between low literacy and crime. Literacy issues develop early in a child’s school life and are often more present in low income/high needs communities. Children in these communities sometimes have negative views of and experience with police.

Innovation

To respond to the above issues, Calgary Public Library partnered with a local school, the Calgary Police Service and a local Rotary Club to offer It’s a Crime Not to Read. This program connects Grade 2 and 3 students with books, reading, life-long learning, and positive community relationships. Each month, staff from the Calgary Public Library and an Officer from the Calgary Police Service visits a participating school. The Police Officer reads aloud to the students, illustrating the importance of developing strong literacy skills. Each student receives a free Library Card and the importance of using library resources is reinforced. A selection of books from the Calgary Public Library is brought to each session for students to borrow. The Police Officer is a positive role model, and becomes a mentor to the students. The participants also take part in several special events in the course of the program.

Now in its 4th year, It’s a Crime Not to Read is a success story for all involved. This program does more than achieve goals related to improving literacy levels; it also builds community in a real way: through partnership. It is a true collaboration involving the Calgary Public Library, the Calgary Police Service, The Calgary Board of Education, the Calgary Catholic School District, and Calgary Rotary Clubs, who fund aspects of the program. Its impact is substantial: reading levels improve, positive relationships with the Calgary Police Service are cemented and self-esteem is boosted. Furthermore, the program has attracted widespread attention in Calgary, receiving the 2005 Mayor’s Excellence Award for Educational Partnerships in the category of Literacy Support and Enhancement.

Progress

Now in its eighth year, It’s a Crime Not to Read is taking place at thirteen Calgary schools, and is funded by seven Calgary Rotary Clubs and the CIBC Wood Gundy Children’s Miracle Fund. Staff from nine Calgary Public Library locations facilitate the programs. 750 children participated in the program in the 2008/09 school year.

The Calgary Police Service is a strong partner, with the Community and Youth Services Section now taking a central role in assigning officers. All eight Calgary Police Districts are currently involved, with 15 officers acting as regular readers.