“Part of the Camden County Police Department’s mission is to form lifelong bonds with the people of this community, and its vitally important that our officers begin that positive engagement with children at a young age,” said Freeholder Bill Moen. “We want kids to see our officers as guardians of this community, and as people that they can trust. That process starts with creating opportunities for kids to engage with our officers in stress-free and fun-filled environments.”
The Bookmates program in Camden City is offered in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey. The regional program aims to provide a nurturing, one-on-one literacy experience for children to encourage them to develop good reading habits. The experience is also designed to provide these young students with positive interactions with police officers and community leaders.
The officers meet one-on-one with Camden City students for a half hour of reading each week. The kindergarteners benefit greatly from the individualized attention. As they share the joy of reading, the officers also expose the children to a wide range of literature, expand their vocabulary, help improve their comprehension skills and increase their motivation to read.
“By pairing our students with officers from the Camden County Police Metro Division, we’re meeting citywide education goals while giving these kids a mentor, role model, and trusted resource from within their community,” Moen said.
The Bookmates program is currently in four Camden City schools: Thomas H. Dudley Family School, Forest Hill Elementary School, Raphael Cordero Molina Elementary School, and H.B. Wilson Family School. More than 15 officers now participate in the program and more are currently being trained.