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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 1:51 pm | Mostly Cloudy 61º


Santa Maria Book Donations Aimed at Boosting Literacy, Cutting Truancy

Santa Maria Public Library shop gets used children's books from Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office

donated books Click to view larger
Armed with a baby book, District Attorney’s Office Chief investigator Pat Clouse, Deputy District Attorney Jillian Ostrove and District Attorney Joyce Dudley drop off children’s book donations at Santa Maria’s The Library Shop where used books can be purchaed cheaply. The District Attorney’s Office staff donated children’s books to help encourage youth reading with literacy as one way to fight crime. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Books might seem like an unlikely weapon in the fight against crime until Joyce Dudley spells out what she views as the strong connection.

A former early childhood educator and now district attorney, Dudley believes the link is so strong she and her colleagues recently made a delivery to Santa Maria Public Library’s used book store to help boost literacy amid a bid to reduce truancy and youth involvement in crime.

Dudley, Deputy District Attorney Jillian Ostrove and Chief Criminal Investigator Pat Clouse dropped off the donations Friday afternoon. 

“We have learned that it’s remarkable the number of people who have dropped out of school and end up in state prisons,” Dudley said. “It is a direct link between children engaging in school and later not engaging in either being perpetrators of crime and victims of crime. 

“If they feel they are successful in school and they feel they can contribute and be a part of that community, they’re more likely to stay in school. If they’re more likely to stay in school, they’re more likely to be successful,” she added.

Upon hearing about The Library Shop making used books available for low cost in addition to the normal books available for checkout from the library, Dudley said she offered colleagues the opportunity to take a different approach to crime fighting.

They collected more than 100 used and some new books from the three offices — Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc. In Dudley’s case, she searched  for books that once belonged to her four now-grown sons. Staff members without children donated new books.

“It made people smile,” she said. “Having something positive to do and being able to positively affect the community, they got behind it.”

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A donation box for purchasing used books sits near the door of The Library Shop at the Santa Maria Public Library.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Library Shop at the Santa Maria Public Library has a box firmly attached to the wall for cash donations, with suggested prices posted nearby, for those purchasing used books. For instance, buyers are urged to pay 50 cents per children’s book.

Spanning the spectrum of offerings for child to adult readers, the hundreds of books filling shelves typically come from local donors.

“Literacy is really what we do, whether it’s for children or adults,” librarian Joanne Britton said. 

City Librarian Mary Housel said her staff is happy to get help putting books into children’s hands, adding many youngsters have never owned their own books.

Encouraging youth literacy provides a companion to the District Attorney’s Office truancy program, Community Leadership in Achieving Student Success.

“That has to do with keeping kids in school,” Dudley said.”This one’s about engaging kids in school.”

donated books Click to view larger
District Attorney Joyce Dudley holds Curious George books while reviewing the book donations from her staff to the Santa Maria Public Library’s used book store as librarian Joanne Britton waches.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Before she relaunched the truancy program, the county rate topped the state average.

“It’s had a tremendous effect on truancy rates,” she said, adding the county now places below the state average. 

The program centers on keeping youths in school and solving whatever problem — troubles at home or fear of gang members — is interfering with attendance while working closely with schools and social service agencies.

“We as humans all want to connect to something bigger than ourselves, so if we can’t connect to the people in school we’re going to connect to gangs on the street,” Dudley said. “That always ends so sadly, whereas connecting to a book, a word, the people in school has the potential of ending so well. We view this as pivotal part of public safety.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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