SHERIDAN, Colo. (KDVR) – A unique challenge is underway at Alice Terry Elementary School. First graders are trying to read as many books as they can, out loud. They started with an audience that included Sheridan police officers.
“What typically would happen would be officers would come in and read to the kids. I thought we should let them read to us,” Officer Bruce Williams said. “If I’m the person that’s listening, I allow students to become good communicators.”
Williams came up with the idea for a read-out-loud challenge.
“I know reading is kinda scary when you’re reading to other people, grown-ups,” William said.
He made it fun by getting the police department to donate three bikes and helmets to give to the students who read the most.
Principal Diego Romero said reading at this level builds a foundation for future learning, and the kids have accepted the challenge.
“It takes a skill to read, but also a talent to read in front of others, especially when you’re in first grade when you’re still a little shy,” Romero said.
Three officers from the Sheridan Police Department joined the audience, including Police Chief Jeff Martinez. They believe it is a chance to build relationships with the kids in the community they serve.
“It’s just amazing, come into the school, look at the smiles, I even serve breakfast in the morning. They know me all too well, I get a hundred high fives a day and that’s perfect,” Williams said.
“Since we build these relationships with parents, mothers and dads, we have to do the same with the youth. Come into schools, be present, be active. We stress family in Sheridan, that’s how we treat it. These students are not just students, they’re our kids. To know them personally, that helps us out as police officers, allows us to do our job a little extra detailed because now we are emotionally involved in these kids’ lives,” Williams added.
The principal agrees. “We see them laugh and giggle with students when they’re reading. We’ve seen them share from the book, it opens that door for more communication being able to say it’s ok when we need to call an officer,” Romero said.
They said reading out loud helps them build skills and confidence. The officers will show up from time to time to listen to the students read. They said they are learning as well.
“These students are not just students, they’re our kids. To know them personally, that helps us out as police officers, allows us to do our job a little extra detailed because now we are emotionally involved in these kids’ lives,” Williams said.
The officers have similar “pop-up programs” planned for students in other grades and other schools.