Jacob Cordero liked the laughing part of “Leonardo the Terrible Monster” best.
“It was funny,” the 4-year-old said Monday after Manatee County Sheriff-elect Rick Wells read the book to children at Happy Cubs at Blake Medical Center.
For classmate Ella Teeple, 4, “the monster part” was her favorite.
Children gathered on the blue carpet of the child care center to hear Wells read the book as Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County completed the first year of its Deputy Friendly’s Book Club program, which is where a sheriff’s deputy reads to children every month.
“Make sure when you get a little older and you start to read, you read every single day,” Wells told the children Monday. “Read every single day. ... Reading gives you knowledge and reading helps you learn.”
The Deputy Friendly program serves two purposes — it promotes early literacy while also showing law enforcement in a different light, said AnnaMaria Carleton, early literacy coordinator with ELC.
Make sure when you get a little older and you start to read, you read every single day.
Rick Wells, Manatee sheriff-elect
“This is a positive way for them to have interaction and also great way to promote literacy,” she said.
In the program’s pilot year, deputies went into 20 ELC sites as well as three school district sites, but in 2017 ELC hopes to double the number, Carleton said.
“It was great,” she said of the first year. “Everyone really enjoyed it. The deputies really enjoyed it.”
For Annette Larkin, owner/director of Happy Cubs, reading is used a lot.
“It develops literacy skills,” she said of the program. “It encourages them to read. They are very receptive.”
At Happy Cubs, the children know that reading is the key to everything, Larkin said.
“The children love to read,” she said.
While Monday was the first time Wells participated in the ELC program, he said it is very important for deputies to get out to read to the children.
“We know how important it is for them to start reading early and to be focused on reading and their education and also about building relationships,” he said. “Just that bond we can have with them will hopefully build for future relationships as they get older.”
Wells said he loves reading to kids.
“They are so focused on what you are saying,” he said. “They ask you a lot of questions about your job and they are just very, very inquisitive so for me to be able to share in that reading experience is a pretty awesome experience.”