16th District Police Officers and Two “Special Friends” Provide Safety Tips and to First- and Second-Grade Students at Morton McMichael Elementary School
Area nonprofit WePAC-hosted event brings important safety message to West Philadelphia school
PHILADELPHIA, March 20, 2017 – First and second grade students at Morton McMichael Elementary School in West Philadelphia received a firsthand lesson in safety recently when 16th District Police Officers Jason Stehly and Jesse Woodhouse, along with “Officer Buckle and Gloria,” joined them in the school’s Library Café.
Library Café is an enrichment program hosted by the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC) and its volunteers. Library Cafés are in-school-time forums at which guest speakers and readers from the community expose children to new ideas and possibilities by tying together real world experiences with literature.
Officer Buckle and Gloria are the title-subjects of a 1995 picture book that earned recognition as one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
Supported by laugh-out-loud illustrations, the book and its reading by Officer Stehly, engaged the McMichael School children while teaching them about safety.
Following the reading, Officers Stehly and Woodhouse answered questions for the students and assisted them with a safety-focused arts-and-crafts activity, with the children offering their own safety tips.
WePAC (www.wepac.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the joy of reading back to schools by operating volunteer-run school library programs. It is the only organization in Philadelphia working systematically to re-open closed libraries and bring library programming back to schools. This school year, WePAC is operating libraries at 14 schools, mostly in West Philadelphia.
“The vast majority of Philadelphia’s public schools lack a functioning library due to budgetary constraints,” explained WePAC Executive Director Heather Farber. “Research shows that students from schools with open libraries do better in school and on standardized tests than students from schools without libraries,” she declared. “We must teach our children to learn to read before they must read to learn! That’s why WePAC has dedicated itself to re-opening and operating school libraries and bringing academic mentoring into our schools,” said Farber.
WePAC will partner again with the 16th Police District for a Library Café event in April at another school library, this time at the Rudolph Blankenburg School.
Established during the 2003-2004 school year as an outgrowth of a suburban/urban outreach project between Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and many civic groups, the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children today is a wholly independent and non-sectarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
After the School District of Philadelphia began closing school libraries in a drastic attempt to address the widening budget gap, the current face of WePAC was born, stepping in with library and literacy programming. Since 2009, WePAC has re-opened and operated volunteer-run libraries in Philadelphia public schools. In the 2016-2017 academic year, WePAC will run libraries in 14 schools as well as a one-on-one literacy mentoring program, Library Buddies, in several schools.