Preschool Ambition: 1,000 Books before Kindergarten

New Hampshire early literacy program rewards families for reading to toddlers and preschoolers.

By Emma Wunsch

In I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, Dartmouth College alumnus Theodore Geisel — Dr. Seuss — tells us, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn the more places you’ll go.” And thanks to the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, New Hampshire residents need to go only as far as the local library to take advantage of this free early literacy program.

The program operates basically the same way everywhere — families record all books read to children under 5 — but each library is free to create incentives. Judith G. Russell, director at Converse Free Library in Lyme, N.H., and treasurer of Children’s Librarians of New Hampshire (CHILIS-NH), says the beauty of the program is how “straightforward and simple and easy it is to get families excited and involved with local libraries and with reading.”

The Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., began its 1,000 Books program in January. Children’s Librarian Brenda Tripodes says the book program is “a little extra reason to come to the library.” For every 100 books read, participants earn a sticker; when they reach between 300 and 350 books, the prize is a book tote; and at the 500 and 800 count, free books are awarded. Upon reaching 1,000 books, the family receives a certificate of completion and signs their name on a special door dedicated to the program.

Within six weeks of the start of the Lebanon, N.H., Public Libraries’ 1,000 Books program in February, tote bags were flying out the door to the nearly 100 enrolled children. Retired First Grade Teacher, Story Time Leader and Substitute Librarian Francine Lozeau loves seeing how proud the children are coming into the library with their totes full of books. Lebanon libraries reward stickers for every 100 books and a free book and certificate upon completion of the program.

In Newport, four children have completed Richards Free Library’s 1,000 Book program. For the other 39 children currently working on their 1,000 books, the library has some unique incentives. In addition to getting stamped at every 100-book interval, participants write their name and decorate a paper star to display in the library. Moriah Churchill, who kicked off the program in August 2014, says they “make a big deal of putting the stars on our 1000 BB4K bulletin board.” Upon completion, participants receive a tote bag and two picture books. Churchill says one of the best parts of the program is how “absolutely simple this program can be. All that’s needed is a way for parents to record their books and a barrel full of enthusiasm about reading.”

While the thought of reading 1,000 books might be daunting, all the librarians interviewed insist it can be accomplished. And, rest assured, if your 3 year old insists on Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site five times a day, each reading counts! Audiobooks, story times and other readers count, too! If you read just one book a day, your 2 year old will finish his 1,000 books in just three years — right in time for kindergarten!

Emma Wunsch lives with her husband, two daughters and large dog in Lebanon. Her young adult novel The Movie Version was published in October, 2016.

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