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Literacy 5-0: Book ‘Em pushes link between reading, crime prevention

It’s an innovative idea – getting books in the hands of teens as a means of promoting literacy and at the same time fighting crime.

No surprise that it was a police officer who made it come to life.

“I see more awareness of the importance of reading. That’s the point of all this. It’s to get kids to read more,” said Mark Kearney, the crime-prevention officer at the Waynesboro Police Department, who is getting ready for the seventh annual Book ‘Em Event in Waynesboro this weekend.

The Saturday, Oct. 16 Book ‘Em will be held at Kate Collins Middle School from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Close to 50 authors from the Shenandoah Valley, across Virginia and across the world have signed on to participate.

The event features a schedule of author talks and book sales and signings all day long.

A portion of sales generated at Book ‘Em goes to fund literacy programs in the Waynesboro area. Funds are used to buy books that are distributed to middle- and high-school students across the area.

Kearney hand-delivers the books to schools – and gets to see firsthand the impact that the program is having.

“I have people who tell me that basically their child has not read a book in their life, and then a police officer puts a book in their hands, and they discover the joy of reading. I’ve had kids tell me they’ve never owned books, and by the end of the school year they have a book collection at home, and it’s because of Book ‘Em,” Kearney said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

augusta free press
augusta free press