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1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

I remember the first time I visited Wickson Library after becoming a mother. It was Fall of 2020; pandemic-era lockdown mandates were gradually lifting, and the world was discovering its new normal. Loren was about two months old.

The children’s wing was quiet and empty, except for Cheri Stainforth, Wickson Library’s former Early Learning Specialist, who greeted us with a warm smile and ended up telling us about the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.

She showed me the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten wall mural, where photos of children who had successfully finished the program decorated the branches of a lush green tree, and she handed me the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten reading journal where we were instructed to record each book we read.

As someone who is highly competitive and goal-oriented, we went right to work. That very afternoon, I divided every children’s book we owned into two piles—books we have read, and books we haven’t. I put Loren on his play gym with a few toys, told Alexa to play some classical piano music, and proceeded to record every title in the “have read” pile into Loren’s reading journal. Over the course of the next few weeks, we made our way through the “have not read” pile, and just like that we had our first 150+ books recorded in the log.

From that point forward, Loren and I walked to the library every week. We checked out mountains of books, often maxing out our 30-book check out limit. When winter came, we put on our boots, braved the icy sidewalks, and trudged through the snowdrifts. The more we read, the more we wanted to keep reading.

If you were to read just 1 book a day, you’d reach your 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten goal in under 3 years. Considering that most children start kindergarten at around 5 years of age, the task is quite simple, and yet, the rewards are priceless.

In his book, Raising Confident Readers, Richard Gentry writes, “Parents should begin reading aloud to children at birth. It feeds the child’s hungry brain with data for language development, speaking, and early word reading. It’s a wonderful way to bond and leads to cognitive, social, and emotional development.” There are countless benefits to reading aloud to children from an early age. Plus, it’s fun!

Loren recently completed his 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, and his picture is on the wall mural with the other finishers. I am so proud of the reader he is becoming.

Last week I sat down to read a book while Loren was playing nearby, so I asked him if he wanted to join me. He answered, “Yes!” without hesitation, and walked over to select a book before joining me on the opposite end of the couch. He’s not quite 3-years-old at this point, so this moment only lasted a few minutes, but it was so special. My toddler wanted to read with me! I beamed with pride.

What happens now that we’ve finished the program? Well, we keep up our weekly trips to the library, make a daily habit of reading, and continue to cultivate our love of books.

As of June 1, the summer reading program is officially underway. Perhaps you’ll consider signing your child up for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program this year. We’d love to hear about your journey!

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