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‘Books with Badges’ program jumping off the pages

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A local state trooper is finding major success with a school program he created.

Trooper Chase Watts with the St. Clairsville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol started ‘Books with Badges’ in 2015, and now it's expanding into other states.

Besides patrolling the roads, Watts is also taking time to visit schools and read to children.

It's a program meant to foster better relationships and teach kids that reading can be fun.

“When you see the kids smile and they are all happy just to see us there, not to mention giving them stickers and a book, it makes you feel good," Watts said.

The Books with Badges program has reached 16 schools, with the first being Martins Ferry, where Watts is an alumnus.

"All the negative that you see with the shootings, relationship with the police in the communities, I wanted to do something for the kids, something they can reflect on and have good memories of," Watts said.

Now, schools from West Virginia to Florida are reaching out to Watts to get involved with the program.

"It's really picking up,” he said. “Woodsdale was the first school out of state I went to, and they were very, very helpful -- the sheriff's office and Wheeling Police Department -- so I'm just hoping to keep expanding into different states and areas because the goal is for every community to have it."

This weekend, Watts is holding his first fundraiser with the funds going toward a book mobile.

"Raise money to purchase a smaller vehicle in that mindset of a mobile library, so when I got to different events, so we can pull up and they can get a book for free and just donate it to them,” he said.

And it's not just for state troopers -- any police or fire department can participate and make a child's day a bit brighter.

"Every school that I go to, I want to have that particular police, fire department come in because that's who the kids see the most," Watts said.

The fundraiser will take place beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the St. Clairsville Eagles Club.

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