Wilson said the 2010 US Census shows that more than 60 percent of East Side children live with one parent at or just above the poverty level.
“I think it is fair to say that most of those families don’t have the money to purchase books, letter and number activity books, or other literacy supplies,” he added. “This puts those children at a disadvantage before starting kindergarten and makes it more probable they will fall further behind in elementary school.”
This is why he teamed up with Wilmington police Sgt. Gary Tabor, who started passing out his children’s old books to children in the Riverside housing community. This soon became the Book ‘Em program that now has other Wilmington officers passing out donated books to needy children.
The programs, one providing books, the other literacy supplies, compliment one another.
“Mike’s program helps give them the tools to practice what they’ve learned in preschool and of course, Book ‘Em gives them the books to read so that they can practice literacy after school to reinforce what their teachers have taught them throughout the day,” Tabor said.
The program also works to build bridges between the community and police, all of whom have volunteered to pass out books Wednesday and Saturday – after their shifts ended.
“Getting out here, meeting with the kids face-to-face makes a big difference,” Tabor said. “I’ve always believed that once the parents saw you loving their children, they would get a new respect for you.”
That wasn’t lost on Shonna Bernard, who said this shows her children and the community that police are there for them.
“Normally [police] are out here when stuff goes down,” she said. “But to actually see them take their time out to do things for the kids is even better.
“They’re all right with me because they care about my kids’ education and that’s the main thing I care about.”