Police in Far North Queensland are working with libraries to collect and distribute books to children involved in traumatic events, providing them with a welcome and healthy distraction during a time of crisis.
Backseat Books is an initiative led by Senior Sergeant Marty Ots, and is now being rolled out throughout the Far North policing district after being trialled in regional towns including Cairns from 2020.
Senior Sergeant Ots said that providing children with a book while they are in the back seat of a police vehicle allows the children to redirect their attention and reduce the lasting impacts of trauma.
“Unfortunately, children can bear witness to confronting and challenging situations that can leave them quite distressed,” Senior Sergeant Ots said.
“Through this program, our aim is to have a range of books in the back seat of police vehicles that can be distributed to a child in crisis, providing a welcome distraction and calming the child.”
Acting Chief Superintendent Chris Hodgman said the initiative helps improve relationships between young people and police.
“Research indicates that children exposed to multiple adverse experiences are more likely to lead a dysfunctional lifestyle, and be more susceptible to getting into trouble with police as they got older,” Acting Chief Superintendent Hodgman said.
“Backseat Books is designed to provide a safe space for children to escape from their crisis.”
The books have been collected over the past six months, donated by the State Library of Queensland and local Councils, including Cairns Regional Council.
Cairns Councillor Amy Eden said the program introduced children to a constructive distraction and fostered a love of reading in young people.
“Readers of all ages can transform their mindset and escape to another world through immersing themselves in a good book,” Cr Eden said.
“To provide young people experiencing a traumatic event with a book appropriate to their age, reading level and cultural considerations can reduce stress, provide a mental escape and exercise imagination.
“Over 900 books have been collated by Cairns Libraries – from picture books to junior fiction and non-fiction titles – which are now being donated to this amazing program.
“We are proud to support Backseat Books to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable community members, and hope that this initiative will also improve literacy and foster a genuine love of reading in Cairns’ young people.”