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By mazske
March 22, 2006

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I posted this to the Retire Early Home Page a week or so ago. This will give you an example of what I'm trying to do. I see a lot of problems in society, but I see solutions as well. I believe in education as a way to improve society. I believe that anyone, no matter what their lot in life, has the ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

So, thanks to Dave and Leslie encouraging me, here's what motivates me to keep going when I get down and feel that I should just throw in the hat.

mazske, the Book 'Em Fool who is trying to change the world one person at a time. Enjoy my thoughts below.

There are several studies that have been done in regards to the literacy level in our prisons. I've seen the numbers ranging from 60% to 80% of all the prisoners are reading at a 3rd grade reading level or lower. Let's say the numbers are skewed and are too high and only 40% of the prisoners out of the 2 point some million of them read at a 3rd grade reading level or lower. Using my lower number, this means more than 800,000 prisoners read at a 3rd grade reading level or lower.

When I went into that prison back in December, I spoke to roughly 200 prisoners. None of them had their high school diploma. The program had just graduated roughly 200 other prisoners the week before I came and none of them had a high school diploma. The program had a waiting list of, I believe, another 200 or so that, guess what, do not have a high school diploma. The principal of the school in the prison guessed that roughly 75% of the prisoners, 1150 inmates in all, do not have high school diplomas.

This is why I have my literacy programs. I challenge anyone in law enforcement to prove to me that they have a better crime reduction program, looking long term, in reducing crime than these literacy programs.

This is why I turned down Cpl. This is why I dropped out of the testing process last year. This is why I have no intentions to test again.

If I leave my position, name me one person who will step in and continue my programs.

I've met with Judge Victor Ludwig before about all of this and in the middle of our conversation, he smacked his forehead and said something about this being so obvious, but why had no one picked up on this before.

The kids who are repeat-juvenile offenders, most of them, not all of them, have poor reading skills.

Chief reads to classes almost as much as I do. I think he'll attest to the fact that these children are looking up to us. Some of them are emulating us "tough cops" by reading books.

When I go into some of my classes, I have kids, some smart, some not so smart, telling me about the books they have read. Maybe they can't tell their parents this and maybe their teachers are just their teachers, but a cop, with a badge and a gun, they want to tell us about their reading accomplishments.

Some of the really smart kids, by the time they are in 8th grade, they don't care about me coming to their classes. But, I'd say a good 80% of the kids really enjoy having me come and are getting something out of it.

Here's one example. This is an extreme example. One 8th grade class that I go into is primarily a special Ed class. There is one boy in this class who I've been told hated to read. He couldn't read. He was tested at the beginning of the school year and he was reading at a 1.6 grade reading level, as an 8th grader. He listens to me when I talk. His teacher has told me she catches him reading his book that I give him while she's trying to teach. The teacher is tickled pink about this because this boy refused to read. He was tested in January, and his level is up to 2.3. They attribute this to my visits and my book gifts.

This boy is still below that 3rd grade reading level and he may always remain there. But, if he made this increase, what about the other "average" kids who have told me, told their teachers, told the newspaper reporters, that they didn't like to read and wouldn't read, but now they are reading the books I'm giving them?

Will I make a difference to all 200 and some 8th grade students I visit every 3 weeks? The short answer is NO, not all of them.

But, if I can help some of them to increase their reading levels, and if this can help some of them to stay in high school and to get that diploma, then the numbers show that fewer of them will go to prison.

A smart alec could argue that is because they are smarter and know how to avoid getting caught. I'll argue that it's because they are smarter and they have more options available to them above and beyond committing crime.

This is why I'm doing what I'm doing and I plan to keep doing it. This is why I'm set on starting a program next year for the 9th graders. This is why I plan to, over the next few years, have programs in place all the way through their senior year. If we maintain our reading program in the elementary schools as well, by the time a kid graduates from high school, think on how many different police officers he/she will have seen in their classes reading to them. Think of how many books they would have received for FREE from a police officer.

This is why the publishing company is continuing to donate these thousands of books to me to hand out. They know the difference that can be made. This is why some authors travel across the country to come to Book 'Em, when they know they aren't going to come close to making enough money to even cover their travel expenses.

This is what keeps me motivated. I take a fair amount of kidding from other members of this department from time to time about my cushy daytime job and blah, blah, blah, but here I sit at 7:30 on a Friday night trying to explain what I'm doing so I can continue to do it for the long term.

This is why I have to get these programs established and spread around. Once they are established and have spread, if I decide to retire or move on, I know the work won't stop. Or, if Chief decides to retire or move on and some non-reading Chief comes in, he/she hopefully won't stop my work because it'll be so engrained in the culture of this PD and this community.

Can all of you understand where I'm coming from with this? Some people can, some people can't. I'm not doing this for the money, obviously, the glory or any attention. I'm doing it because I have children who are growing up in this world and I want to do what I can to improve the future of society for them and their children.

Thanks for listening and reading.

I typed this e-mail up at 7:30 PM this past Friday night. I could have been out of the office at 5PM, but nope. I work a lot of hours for free, no OT and no comp time because I believe in what I'm doing.

Townsend Press has given me something like 3,000 Bluford Series books so far. They are going to probably give me another 1,000 to finish out this school year. Then, next year, they say they will donate enough so I can have the same program with next year's 8th graders and also they are going to donate a few thousand more so I can start a new program with the 9th graders.

Am I crazy for doing all of this?

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