MIAMI – The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida is helping students learn to read in an effort to prevent crime and show children that they can overcome obstacles to become successful in life.
The majority of kindergartners at Dunbar Elementary, in Overtown, don't have books at home, its principal told Local 10 News reporter Erica Rakow.
Reading along to stories like "Pete The Cat" is something they learned at the school with visits to their classroom from U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer.
"It's the way that we at the USAO are trying to prevent crime, to get to the root causes, to break the cycle of violence and also to show these children (that) they can be anybody and anything that they want as long as they learn how to read," Ferrer said.
Students told Ferrer that they want to be police officers, firefighters, teachers and even a princess.
Ferrer said the young, impressionable students can certainly have successful careers one day, especially if they develop of love for reading.
"If a child does not learn to read at their grade level by third or fouth grade, there is a 50 percent chance that that child may end up in the criminal justice system," he said.
Ferrer calls reading with children a holistic way of approaching crime in communities that statistically have a high rate of gun violence, homicides and robberies.
"One of the best things about the U.S. attorney being a male is that the kids actually get to see that male role model, and it makes a big difference as they grow throughout the years," Dunbar Elementary Principal Ann Lewis said. "They get to see different people in a positive light."
The U.S. attorney visits a school once a month as part of the reading program that 20 schools from Homestead to Fort Pierce are part of.
At the end of the visit, each student gets one of the books to take home and keep.