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Library Encourages Reading 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

May 05, 2016 02:49PM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals

South Jordan - Amy Cannon, who has a master’s degree in library science, and her husband, who works in a library, sought to teach their children Henry, 5, and Eloise, 3, to love reading as much as they do. 

“We both started reading to them the day they were born,” Cannon said. “We never wanted to put it off because books are so important to help kids learn. Now we can’t get them to stop.” 

Librarians at the South Jordan Library introduced the Cannons to Salt Lake County Library Service’s read 1,000 books before kindergarten program in January, and Cannon said that only increased their drive to read. 

“A program helps you to have a focus and make it a priority,” Cannon said. “It’s wonderful to have a way to track their reading, so they can look and see which books they have read. I let Henry write the books himself on the tracker, and it helps him practice his writing, too.” 

Henry will start kindergarten in the fall, having read more than 1,000 books before receiving any public schooling. Amy anticipates that Eloise will reach that goal, too. The Cannon family is joining in the nationwide movement to encourage early literacy and parent–child bonding through reading 1,000 books before kindergarten. 

The 1,000 Books Foundation, which created the 1,000 books before kindergarten initiative, originally started in Nevada. Through the web and word of mouth, the foundation’s message spread, and libraries began adapting the program to meet the needs of the people in their areas. All 50 states; Washington, D.C.; the Virgin Islands; and parts of Canada now have their own versions of the program. 

Salt Lake County Library Services unleashed its version of the program earlier this year, and the South Jordan Library has been distributing small folders containing a reading trackers and the program’s information to patrons with children who have not reached kindergarten age since the end of January. Since the implementation of the program, more than 710 folders have been distributed, according to Allison Madsen, librarian. 

“When I first give out the folders, I ask the kids if they think they can read 1,000 books with their parents, and usually they look at me with wide eyes or say ‘That’s so many,’” Madsen said. “Then I explain that if they just read one book a night, that’s more than 300 books a year, and they start getting really excited about how many books they can get.” 

Each reading tracker contains a slot for 100 book titles. Reading a new book, re-reading books and singing and telling stories count as a write-in on the reading tracker. After a sheet is completed, patrons bring it to the library where librarians will stamp it, and give them a new tracker. Once 10 trackers are filled out, the child and parent receive a special certificate. A few parent-child duos have reached 300 books already, Madsen said.

“So many studies show that reading in the early years is crucial,” Madsen said. “It makes your kids smarter because it increases their vocabulary and helps them want to read. It gives them a step up that will stay with them through school and maybe even to adulthood.” 

One mother of three children told Madsen she was grateful for the 1,000 books program because it motivated her to read with her youngest child.

“She was sincere when she told me, ‘I did that. I read with my first kid, but you forget the gimmick once you get to number two or three, but this program got me excited again,’” Madsen said. “Sometimes parents just need a reminder.” 

With the new developments popping up across the western end of Salt Lake County, Madsen said she meets young families who are new to the area and new to the library on a weekly basis, so she said the need for the program is growing. 

South Jordan Library personnel wanted to implement the 1,000 books program for a while, but they didn’t have an organized way to do it, until the county’s library services made “nicely packaged and cute folder that the kids love,” South Jordan Library manager Matt McLain said. 

“The library is not giving them a scholarship or huge prize, but it is giving them motivation and something to hold on to,” McLain said. “I have no doubt the folders will find their way into scrapbooks.”  

Stop into any Salt Lake County Library location or visit slcolibrary.org for more information.  

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