For a moment, Corey Cole looked more like a children's librarian than a Lucas County sheriff's deputy.
"This is actually a good book," he said, thoughtfully, as he held up a pile of books in his arms. "This one is The Velveteen Rabbit. My daughter loves that one."
The 15-year law-enforcement member joined others Saturday in giving out free books to children who otherwise might not be able to afford them in East Toledo's Birmingham neighborhood.
The initiative was part of this summer's Books 4 Buddies campaign, which has collected more than 7,000 books.
In the neighborhood, one 7-year-old didn't know how to spell his own last name. A girl who is in fourth grade said the police had come to her home before, but only when somebody was hurt or in a fight.
The children lined up outside the apartment complex courtyard on Birmingham Terrace, as if waiting for ice cream.
They picked through the books stacked in crates in the back of the deputies' cruisers.
The scene caught the attention of Corey Marshall, 10, a fifth grader at Clay Avenue Community School.
"They got the lights on, for real," he said, staring at the flashing lights.
About a dozen deputies and visiting active-duty servicemen in town for Toledo's Navy Week passed out the books under a scorching late-summer sun. The 90-degree heat made it unbearable to be wearing a bulletproof vest and black shirt, Deputy Cole said.
The donated books ranged from the summer's big reads such as the The Hunger Games to the classics, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and plenty of picture books, with Scooby-Doo and The Magic School Bus. No wrestling books, however, one child duly noted.
"It's cool," said Ariel Nigh, 10, a fourth grader at Birmingham Elementary School. "They're sharing their things."
This summer's book drive is the brain child of L. Touré McCord II, a former Toledoan who now lives in Cincinnati.
At first, he struggled with reading in elementary school.
"I understood the words and how to pronounce them; comprehension was my problem. I could get through every sentence on the page, but what good did it do when I couldn't explain what I'd just read?" the 14-year-old wrote in a column in The Blade.
But through practice, he discovered his love of reading.
His idea to collect gently used books for underprivileged youth caught the support of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Buckeye CableSystem, Toledo Public Schools and other local organizations. The book drive spread like wildfire; the teenager envisioned netting only 1,000 or so books when he started.
"It's great, more than what we thought," said L. Touré, a high school freshman, as he talked about the community's response Saturday. "We oversucceeded."
Contact Gabrielle Russon at: email@example.com or 419-351-0361, or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson.