When we imagine story time, it usually involves kids sitting in a semi-circle, legs crossed, looking on in wide-eyed wonder as the teacher reads aloud from a treasured classic.
It doesn’t normally begin with a police cruiser.
“Bartlett Dispatch to 590. It’s time. You better find those kids and report to the studio.”
Cut to a time-lapse video of a police vehicle dashing across town, ending with an officer in front of a green screen in said studio.
Today’s beat? “Story Time with a Cop,” the YouTube series created by the Bartlett, Tenn., Police Department.
Across the nation, law enforcement agencies are identifying new community engagement tactics to help children – and let’s face it, parents – break the monotony of staying at home all day and all night.
For instance, in Bartlett, officers are taking daily turns reading to children via social media channels while schools stay closed, many for the remainder of the school year.
From readings of the Little Golden Books favorite The Three Bears (complete with bear voices) to the Seussian tongue-tripper-upper One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, these story time events are drawing an eager audience that’s bonding with the blue from the comfort of their couches.
The same story is playing out in communities like Vernon Hills, Ill., where officers are reading bedtime stories, and Mashpee, Mass., where story time presents officers with an opportunity to share lessons in kindness.
And in Grandview, Mo., children can listen to an animated reading of What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night. They might even find some ideas as to whom to pin their messy room on. (Pro kid tip: Always blame the dinosaurs)
Back over to Tennessee, where Bartlett Police Chief Jeff Cox says there are a couple dozen more books in the queue for Story Time with a Cop.
“We wanted to show the human side of our police force. Our plan was always to do community outreach along these lines, and it just so happened that COVID-19 hit as we were ramping up our efforts,” said Cox, who has been on the police force for three decades. “Based on the positive feedback we’ve received from residents, we don’t see Story Time going away anytime soon.”
Cox said they may even start to take requests of what to read next, which just might mean that he’ll make an appearance someday soon.
“We want our community to know that they are safer at home right now,” Cox said. “Story Time allows families to connect with us and get to know us on a new level.”
As for what Cox will read when it’s his day? We’ll all just have to stay tuned, he said.