AAUW Makefield bringing literacy to kids with new initiative

by Christine Wolkin

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Makefield Area Branch is bringing literacy to Delaware Valley kids with its adaptation of the national children’s literacy initiative, Cops ‘n’ Kids.

One night in 1997, a police officer named Julia Burney Witherspoon responded to a false alarm, where she discovered a warehouse full of books fated to be incinerated.

After receiving permission to take them, Julia put some of the books in the trunk of her cruiser and began handing them out to kids on street corners during domestic calls.

She named this initiative “Cops ‘n’ Kids,” and went on to establish a reading room in an underprivileged area where parents could bring their children for free books.

“I knew from the time I was a little girl that reading was power…You cannot thrive in this society without reading well. I arrest people who are unable to read their rights, and I think how hopeless life must look for them,” said Julia.

In the spring of 2017, the AAUW Makefield Area Branch felt called to take this non-profit initiative and introduce it into its own community.

Since then, more than 18,000 books have been donated and thousands of children have received books.

“Our mission for Cops ’n’ Kids Delaware Valley is to build genuine connections for children to local community and those who serve it, through books and literacy events,” said Mary Auker, coordinator of Cops ‘n’ Kids Delaware Valley.

Members collect new and gently used books through book drives, distribute those books through community and specific reading events, and support teacher classroom libraries and family service organizations.

She continued, “The mission is more than simply dropping books on doorsteps. It involves participation by our team and the entire community to foster a sense of belonging to local community for children through meaningful literacy experiences. It involves a delicate balance between raising support/awareness for the initiative and getting the books and literacy experiences to the children who truly need them. Children’s books are the common denominator for both.”

AAUW Makefield is building partnerships with police, firefighters, mayors, teachers, service organizations, and all who serve local community.

The organization has had police and firefighters read to children and autograph books for them at summer camps, in schools and after school programs, helping each child feel a real connection to their community through the people who serve it.  

“Cops ’n’ Kids addresses the vision of American Association of University Women – equity for all. Certainly, that equity is possible for all children when they experience the power of reading. I never have met a child who didn’t want to be good at reading!” said Mary.

Most recently, Cops ‘n’ Kids participated in several Read Along With a Cop events in Yardley and a Family Literacy Night at Grandview Elementary in Morrisville.

To help with Cops ‘n’ Kids Delaware Valley, readers can volunteer or donate new or very gently used children’s books.

Additionally, the organization is also looking to find donated space where it can house, shelve and get books ready for distribution. 

The Makefield Area Branch of AAUW is committed to the AAUW mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

Today, with more than 100,000 members, 1,300 branches, and 500 college and university partners, AAUW contributes to a promising future and provides a powerful voice for women and girls.

PHOTO CAP: From left, Linda Lackpour (Cops ‘n’ Kids), Andrew Schuster (Morrisville Fire Co.), Tanya Argueta (21st Century Community Learning Center Morrisville), Mike Rush (Morrisville Fire Co.), and Connie Gruen (Cops ‘n’ Kids) at the recent Family Literacy Night in Morrisville.