Children enduring tough times may soon be able to turn to Harry Potter for solace.
Police officers in the Patrol South Bureau have launched the "Book Buddy" program, in which books are given to children as a way to lift their spirits.
The program is the idea of the Wichita Area Library Association and police "ambassadors," the name given to officers who issue parking tickets.
Capt. Troy Livingston, commander of the Patrol South bureau, is an enthusiastic supporter of the pilot program.
"We want to try it out down here and see how it goes," Livingston said. "It's another avenue to reach a kid on a positive level.
"When we interact with those kids, it's during a time of stress. Something bad's happened."
More than 4,000 books for children of all ages have been donated to the library association, which is making the books available to the officers.
Books are available in various languages, said Amy Ramsey, immediate past president of the library association. They include board books for toddlers, picture books, chapter books such as the Harry Potter series, and novels for young adults.
Sedgwick County Sheriff's deputies already distribute books to children through Book Buddy, and Livingston said he hopes the program will eventually expand citywide.
"That would be amazing," Ramsey said. "We would love that."
The books would augment the teddy bears that already are handed out to suffering children, organizers say.
"Many of these children have never owned a book," Ramsey said. "They are books that they keep and take home with them.
"A teddy bear you can hug, you can play with. But a book will take you to a different place. It's a form of escapism... which is a very good thing for some of these children."
Livingston has high aspirations for the program. Some schools in south Wichita have students who underperform in reading, he said, and he thinks this program could help turn that around.
"If you reach a few children, and encourage them to read, maybe on some small level we can make a difference," he said.