CHARLOTTE -- Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers are going back to school. They're doing more than teaching, they're also forming friendships. 

  • Officers helping students by reading to them
  • Program takes places in K-3 classrooms
  • Students receive a stuffed animal from  the officers that becomes their reading buddy

It's part of the Bears Behind the Badge reading program. Each week officers go into schools and read to students in kindergarten through third grade. 

The students also receive a stuffed animal from the officers that becomes their reading buddy. 

Officers say they started the program to help encourage kids to work on their reading skills and to build partnerships in the communities they protect and serve. 

"We're able to get in there, read with the kids, express the importance of reading, express the trust they can have for us, and that they can come to us whether they're lost or afraid," says Officer Chad Webster. "Just developing a good relationship with the youth today, and in hopefully the long run, we're hoping to help them be successful and reduce crime in the future."

"They're people who the students look up to, and they see them in the community. So when they're now associating a police officer with reading a book, it's that motivation sometimes that a student needs," says Heather Klinger, the literacy facilitator at Newell Elementary.  

Officers are accepting stuffed animal donations to give to students. People can drop them off at the University City Division office on University Executive Park Drive.