When Puyallup Public Library director Patty Ayala Ross heard about a program in Wisconsin that gave teddy bears to children who deal with police intervention, an idea sparked.
That idea was the “Comforting Stories” program, where instead of teddy bears, police officers give brand new books to children to take their minds off of a hardship they might be dealing with.
“Books can transport kids to a magical, imaginative place when they need to escape stressful situations,” Ross said. “Books are a healthy way to do that.”
Soon after, Ross approached Puyallup Police Chief Bryan Jeter about the program.
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“I thought it was a fantastic idea,” Jeter said. “We’re always looking for ways to better interact with our community. This seems like such a good way to do that.”
Children can be exposed to police intervention through car crashes, search warrants, medical situations and the like, said Ross. In each case, kids can be subjected to stress.
“Kids can get upset when police are coming to their home,” Ross said. “Any kind of time when it seems warranted, police can give (children) books to help distract them.”
“Say it’s a car accident, or a child’s involved in a car accident, or a domestic violence situation,” added Jeter. “Any traumatic incident where a child might suffer a bit, we’re looking for ways to ease the pain of that child.”
My hope is that this project sparks a caring, comforting habit that children can carry with them all of their lives.
Patty Ayala Ross, Library Services director at the Puyallup Public Library
Staff at the library organized 50 books for children in preschool through sixth grade. The books were donated by Friends of the Puyallup Public Library, some of them in both Spanish and English, ranging from picture books to chapter books. All of them are new.
“In some families, children don’t have books in their home,” Ross said. “It’s very important to me that they get new books. Just the smell and crack of a new book is a great experience. I hope (the books) will be used with love.”
The Puyallup library and the police department teamed up to launch the program in a soft start at the end of September. The books were dropped off at the police department last week.
Jeter expressed gratitude to the Friends of the Puyallup Public Library group.
“It was a fantastic idea,” he said. “We’re very thankful for our partnership.”
Police have not yet had the chance to use the books yet, said Jeter, because the program is so new.
Ross isn’t sure what the future of the program will look like, or how many books she’ll need to gather down the road, but she has high hopes.
“My hope is that this project sparks a caring, comforting habit that children can carry with them all of their lives,” she said.