A new early literacy program adopted by local libraries is challenging parents to read 1,000 books with their children before they enter kindergarten.
With the help of a kindergarten readiness grant from the Idaho Commision for Libraries, the Latah County Library District will be able to support a handful of new early literacy programs, including the 1,000-book challenge.
Stacie Echanove, youth services manager for the district, said the program is open to anyone with a child younger than 5 who wishes to participate. She said 1,000 books might seem like a lot but it is a more manageable goal than it might seem — especially when spread out over a few years.
“Most kids before they enter school can’t read independently, so this is definitely like a ‘read to your kiddo,’ program,” she said. “Every book that is read to the child counts, like if your child really loves ‘Little Blue Truck’ and you read it every single evening to your child, it counts every single time you read the book.”
Echanove said participating families are given book logs and children are given a prize for every 100-book milestone ranging from stickers to lanyards to, of course, books.
She said early literacy programs are important for children because exposure to books and reading at a young age is one of the best ways to prepare them for kindergarten through third grade.
Echanove said reading to children is beneficial, no matter how young they are. She said parents may be skeptical that their baby who can’t yet speak will glean some benefit from being read to but the activity opens a new world of possibilities for children — even infants.
“You’re saying words that you would never say in normal conversations (but) are going to read from a book, you’re going to see different kinds of people in your books that maybe you don’t get to see in your regular life,” she said. “Opening up a book to even a baby opens up an entire new world, to a baby and that’s pretty cool, especially right now, when it feels like, for our children, the world is really very, very small.”
Laura McGreevy, mother of 8-month-old Larkin and 3-year-old Finnley, said her small family is participating in the 1,000 book program as well as other library-sponsored activities.
A lifelong reader herself, McGreevy said there are a raft of benefits in introducing literature to young children. Among other things, she said it helps them practice imagination, which is critical at early ages, but it also helps to foster a lifelong curiosity and love of learning. After only a couple of weeks enrolled in the program, McGreevy said she and her 3-year-old have already worked their way through about 50 books.
McGreevy said Finnley in particular is enjoying the library’s early literacy programs. In every program they’ve participated in, she said Echanove and library staff put a great deal of care and effort into the work. Before the pandemic, she said they would commonly attend in-person storytime at the library and Finnley still clearly enjoys storytime over Zoom.
“In her own playtime, while I’m cooking dinner, I’ll watch her in her room and she’s pretending to be Ms.Stacie,” McGreevy laughed. “She has all her little stuffed animals set up and is doing storytime for them and singing the songs and reading the stories — it’s just the sweetest thing. I can see how much it’s impacting her beyond just an activity or something to do.”
Another early literacy program, Spring Into Reading, will take place later this month. That program is a multi-day workshop geared toward teaching parents and caregivers how to foster early literacy skills. Those interested in registering for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten or Spring Into Reading programs can visit latahlibrary.org for more information.
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.