NAPERVILLE, Ill. — For more than two decades, a familiar squad car has been parked outside Naperville’s downtown public library, and a veteran police police officer has been perched inside, reading stories to kids from across Naperville.
One of officer Matt Fletcher’s first jobs on the force with the Naperville Police Department was to monitor the parking situation around the local library. Fletcher said it wasn’t the most exciting assignment, but one that led to what he said is now his favorite part of the job.
At the beginning of every shift, Fletcher grabs the essentials for every police officer off to active duty around town.
“My safety vest in my locker, shotgun shells, ammunition,” Fletcher said of the daily checklist of things to grab from his locker at the station before heading out on patrol.
But there’s something not so standard that he makes sure to bring with him every Friday morning.
“… and then I have children’s books, which I get a lot of ribbing about,” Fletcher said with a smile.
To understand the backstory, those curious would have to go back 20 years, when one of Fletcher’s first assignments was to ticket cars of drivers not inside the library, but still taking up spots outside.
“We originally got sent to the library [to ticket cars illegally parked],” Fletcher said. “When we got it all done, I asked the library director, ‘do you guys need anything else?’ and their response was ‘yes, we do! Would you like to read a story?’ and I said, ‘I’ll do that, sure! How hard could it be?'”
Fletcher never guessed that one request to read a book would turn into 20-plus years of memories.
“The kids are kind of wide-eyed,” Fletcher said of story time. “I’m pretty big, I’m pretty loud. I don’t have an inside voice so, they took one look at me and it’s [wowing].”
The library estimates nearly 9,000 children have heard Fletcher read over the last two decades, which has always included a special peek into his squad car after story time.
“It’s a little thing but it makes a big difference,” Fletcher said. “The investment is minimal, but the return is massive.”
Fletcher will be back again Friday morning for another round of being the ‘Story Time Cop’ at the Naperville Public Library’s Nichols Library Community Room.