1,000 books, 1,000 new friends before kindergarten: Libraries launch literacy initiative.

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, May 17, 2014

ELKHORN—Have your children met Frances?

How about Lyle, George, Mike, Harry, Madeline and Olivia?

Children's librarians across the country want to expand your child's social set—and their knowledge—with the program 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.

Along the way, kids will have a chance to meet Frances the badger, Lyle the crocodile, Mike and his steam shovel, Harry the dirty dog, Madeline the schoolgirl and Olivia the pig.

The 1,000 books program is something different than the usual summer library programming for children, librarians said.

“It's more of an initiative than a program,” said Jennifer Wharton, youth services librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn. “It's really more of an idea that's spread through children's librarians.”

Lake Geneva Youth Services Librarian Sara Soukup agreed, adding, “It's parent-based rather than librarian based.”

It's simple: Librarians give parents a folder with information. When the children and parents return to the library, they bring their list of books. For every 10 books they read with their parents or caregivers, kids get stickers. The size of those stickers increases as  families reach benchmarks: 50 books, 100 books, 200 books.

The reward at 1,000 books? Children get to pick out a book to keep.

Literacy is the primary goal.

The 1,000 books initiative ties in with the five early literacy practices libraries are working to promote, Wharton said.

Those practices, boiled down to their most simple form are: read, sing, write, play and talk.

The process of reading with a child, sitting next to him or her and talking about the pictures or the story, is a learning process, Soukup said.

“Little children can't learn just by listening to something,” Soukup said.

“When you're reading to a child, you're not just reading a story, you're telling them what books are for," said Soukup, a youth services librarian. “They learn how to open books. They learn that these squiggles on the page mean something. They can even pick out their own books.”

Even tiny babies learn.

“Parents sometimes think that when they're reading to babies they're just reading out into the ether,” Wharton said. “But babies start to learn the moment they're born.”

A colorful board book gives parents a chance to say “Look at that!” Babies will respond both to images and the sound of parents' voices.

Yes, it's true, babies will sometimes take a board book out of their parents hands and proceed to gnaw on the corners. That's part of the learning process, too.

Babies are tactile learners, Wharton said.

The 1,000 books initiative is an ongoing program, and can be found at libraries throughout Rock and Walworth counties.

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