LAPD Read Along at the Vermont Square Library

Catherine Sturgeon, Children's Librarian, Angeles Mesa Branch Library,
Officer Joseph Oseguera sitting down with children from the Vermont Square Branch, smiling at the camera and holding books

It’s almost 2:30 on a Friday afternoon when a mother with three young children approaches the Reference Desk. “Are the officers here yet?” she asks. There is a police officer on his way upstairs, but there is no emergency: it’s time for the LAPD Read Along storytime! Officer Joseph Oseguera, Senior Lead Officer with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Relationship Division, appears and the children and parents gather around him as he begins to read animatedly to them. The branch is alive with the sound of Read Along storytime and the enthusiasm with which the children respond. And that’s just how Officer Joe wants it.

Joe, please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Joe Oseguera and I am a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). I started the Academy in September of 1995 and after graduating I was assigned to work the Southeast Division, also known as Watts. I spent a year there learning the basics of being a police officer and then transferred to the Wilshire Division, where I spent four years working patrol. I was then transferred to the Newton Division in 2000 where I really found a home. I spent 15 years working Newton patrol as a field training officer, training the new recruits right out of the academy. In 2015 I was promoted to Senior Lead Officer at the newly-formed Community Relationship Division out of Police Headquarters.

Please tell us about the LAPD’s Community Relationship Division.

The Community Relationship Division (CRD) was formally established in August of 2015 under the leadership of Captain Ruby Flores. CRD consolidated many community outreach and community policing functions that existed throughout the Department. The LAPD established a formal community outreach program in 1965 in the aftermath of the Watts riots and the CRD builds upon these early efforts. The CRD strives to build and maintain relationships and trust between the Department and the diverse communities in Los Angeles while leveraging best practices in community outreach and community policing and utilizing cutting-edge digital media technologies. Captain Alcenda Neal is the current Community Relationship Division Commanding Officer.

Officer Oseguera reading to children sitting on the floor, and a woman looking on, sitting down and holding a baby

Officer Oseguera reading to children at the Vermont Square Branch Library

How did the Read Along program come about?

We started the LAPD “Read Along” in February of 2016 with the goal to promote literacy and provide a positive environment for children to interact with police officers. Our hope is to build relationships with the youngest members of our community that will last a lifetime. During my time as a patrol officer, I witnessed too many children growing up with no positive role models in their lives and little to no encouragement to get an education. I encountered many teenagers and young adults who had very poor reading and writing skills. Once I was assigned to CRD, we were given the freedom to create programs and events to promote positive interactions with police officers and the community. I thought that it would be great if we had a program which promoted both a positive interaction and also promoted education to young children. I decided to contact the Los Angeles Public Library and they were immediately on board. Together, we developed the “LAPD Read Along.” The name is a play on words referring to a police “ride along.” I thought it would be fun to take children on a “Read Along” with the police. So, after a few months of cutting red tape and developing our strategy, the “LAPD Read Along” was off and running at the Vermont Square Branch and the Vernon Branch. We modeled our reading program on LAPL’s current STAR (Story Telling and Reading) program, where volunteer members of the community read to children.

Which library branches have Read Along programs?

Currently, we have the program in six branches where there is a uniformed LAPD police officer reading to children on a weekly basis. In addition to the weekly Read Alongs, we visit branches all over the city to read to children.

Officer Oseguera displaying a book wide open for kids to look at it.

Who typically attends the programs?

Our Read Along children range in age from two-year-old toddlers to 14-year-old teens. We have just as many boys as we do girls. We were told when we started the program that most of the children to attend the STAR program were girls and it was difficult to get the boys interested. I believe our uniform gets them in the door and the books get them hooked. 

During story time, you not only read to the children but you also ask questions, encourage them to participate, and educate them on thematic facts.  Please share with us your thoughts on the importance of promoting an interest in and reading to children.

I really can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading to children and engaging them in conversation. I have two very young children of my own and we have been reading to them since before they were born. Children really are like sponges and I want them soaking up all the positive influences and information possible. Reading is the foundation for any education and if we can get these young children a quality education, I feel we will prepare them to be successful in life. I ask the children lots of questions to spark their imagination and expose them to facts and information they may not have otherwise learned. I always ask them what they want to be when they grow up and encourage them to aim for the sky.  There is no better crime prevention tool than to give a child an education.  

What are the future plans for the Read Along?

My goal for the LAPD Read Along would be to have police officers who are working throughout the city stop in for an hour a week to interact and read to children in their community. I believe it would benefit the officers as much as it would benefit the children.

Officer Oseguera smiling and holding up two books openly displayed

Weekly LAPD Read Along Programs

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