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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown talks with Bisous Onate about her books as Salt Lake City police officers give out books to kids at Mary W. Jackson Elementary on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Students at Mary W. Jackson Elementary School got early Christmas presents Monday.

The Salt Lake Police Department let kindergartners and first-graders pick out three books to take home with them. And as Chief Mike Brown told the group, keep them forever.

"Forever?" the students exclaimed with excitement, many raising their hands in the air.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Sam Wolf reads to students as officers give out books to kids at Mary W. Jackson elementary on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.

On Monday, the department donated more than 1,000 books to Mary W. Jackson Elementary, 750 W. 200 North, and Pacific Heritage Academy, 1755 W. 1100 North. The books were collected during the Salt Lake Police Department's third annual book drive in partnership with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

About 120 students from Mary W. Jackson and 60 from Pacific Heritage were recipients of the books.

But before letting the students choose from titles such "The Magic Bus" series and "Junie B. Jones," the chief, along with Mayor Jackie Biskupski, read to them. Brown read "Police Officers on Patrol." The picture book told the story of officers responding to different situations.

"When people need help, we rock and roll!" the chief read.

The book drive was sponsored by the city and the Salt Lake City Public Library.

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"By investing in kids and encouraging early reading, we are hoping to change outcomes for at-risk children and prevent future crime," according to a statement from the police department.

“Education and reading is paramount in developing a successful law-abiding citizen,” Brown said. “About 40 percent of prisoners lack a high school education. Never has reading been so important and critical than now. It is imperative that young children develop a love and passion for reading. Books are a ticket for success."