WATERLOO — Students at Highland Elementary School got some new books Tuesday, just in time for the long Thanksgiving holiday.
And they received a reminder on the importance of reading from school resource officer James Oliver of the Waterloo Police Department.
The books were courtesy of Quota International of Waterloo and its Cops ’n Kids program.
“We’re here today, because we brought books for everyone in the school,” Ginny Salkeld, the program’s chairperson, told Highland’s kindergartners. The group made presentations to each grade level. A variety of books were handed out during the gathering or when students went back to class.
“You guys like to read?” asked Oliver. “Does anyone know the most important part of reading?”
One of the children responded, “You can get smart.”
“That’s right, real smart,” said Oliver. “So when we read, we build on our imagination.”
He answered children’s questions about his job during each presentation. Oliver told fourth-graders while sirens and a lot of action are part of police work, there are also 10-page reports that must be typed following an incident or arrest.
The Quota Club has given away a lot of books since starting its Cops ’n Kids Literacy Program in 2004.
“We’re up to around 40-some thousand since then,” said Salkeld. “We go to almost all the elementary schools (in the Waterloo Community School District) as well as Elk Run Preschool and all the other preschools.”
Marsha Stroh, another Quota Club member, said they want to encourage students “to read and encourage kids to be such good citizens. We’re so much into the electronic age and books are becoming a little bit old-fashioned, but still kids love them.”
In a separate donation to elementary school families across the district this year, the Quota club is distributing “Mr. Holidays Presents The Rooftop Hop” Christmas book, compact disc and DVD created by Michael Sheahan, a retired New York City police detective. Sheahan donated 1,400 of the books to the Quota Club this year and has donated about 20,000 total copies across the country. Fifty of the books were distributed by Highland recently with another 40 expected to be given away next month.
The author and musician has a connection to Stroh’s oldest son that got him interested in bringing the book to Waterloo. “It was a wonderful gift,” said Stroh. He also donated some of the books six years ago, just after it was published.
Many of Sheahan’s other donations this year are to schools hit by hurricanes in Texas and Florida. “The response has really touched my heart,” he said.
“I’ve always been in the entertainment industry,” noted Sheahan, who was a boy soprano with the New York’s Met Opera as a child. Later, he spent some time working in the music industry in Nashville. He chose a law enforcement career after college, but continued his interest in music.
In his book, Mr. Holidays tells the story of Santa Claus’ favorite song, which he dances to while delivering toys every Christmas. The song is featured on the CD and DVD, which includes a dance video. The DVD also includes a top choreographer and dance instructor teaching steps to the dance.
“It just came to me one night and I created the character Mr. Holidays,” said Sheahan. “In one night, the whole story, the whole song came to me. I knew the minute I had this that it was something special.”
Learn more about Sheahan’s book on Facebook by searching “Mr. Holidays Celebrations” or contribute to fundraising for future donations by searching “The Gift Keeps Giving” at gofundme.com.