By Dawn M Chiossi
“Read it again, read it again,” the plea is something that every parent has heard over and over from children at story time. What’s more, those same parents and caregivers had uttered those exact same words, expressing that exact same feeling, of not wanting their beloved story to end when they were read to as a youngster.
It is well known that when parents and caregivers read to their children, when children are shown the passion and enjoyment that a story can bring to them, chances are they will become avid readers themselves. Seeking to help them accomplish this worthwhile goal, Butler Public Library invites everyone to their program, the Read 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge.
“This challenge is something that is not just doable, it is much anticipated,” relates Butler Public Library’s Children Services Provider, Arlene Walk. “This is a nationwide effort, and we’ve been doing the program for about 4 years now. People just love it.”
The Read 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge was inspired by the 1,000 Books Foundation. This nonprofit is operated exclusively for charitable, literary and educational purposes. And it has the best of objectives: To promote reading to newborns, infants and toddlers. It also serves to nurture parent and child bonding through reading.
A lifelong lover of books, reading and learning, Walk has been working at the Butler Library for approximately 8 years. Before that, she had worked at Butler’s Aaron Decker School and The Richard Butler School.
For Walk, the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge is a perfect combination of both her enthusiasm for reading and working with children. “Many libraries have a challenge like this,” she relates. “Here at Butler, we have approximately about 70 people participating so far. We also see a lot of people from other towns such as Bloomingdale, Kinnelon. Our library may be small but we have a large selection of picture books that kids and parents just gravitate to.”
The Read 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge also engages creativity and imagination for the children on a couple of different levels, including visually.
“How it works is that children register for the program, get books from the library to read, then they will then receive a picture log brochure where they can color in animals, such as whales, koala bears, and turtles,” Walk warmly explains. “When they finish reading a story, then they color in a picture. When it is completed, children and their parents come back to the library to get more books to read, return the brochure, and the children will win a prize such as a small stuffed animal. The children are so excited, they often have trouble making up their minds about which prize to choose. It’s so cute,” Walk remarks. “We then will give the children a brand new picture log brochure and they will start all over again. Soon they are well on their way to reading toward the thousand books.”
Visitors to the library can even see the progress of the children for themselves, chronicling their reading journey throughout their pre schooling years.
“We’ll post their progress on the wall with how many books the children complete, changing them each time,” Walk enthuses. “We’ll even post pictures of them on Facebook if parents wish it.”
Walk shares that she sees many children participating in the program, some as young as one years old, as well as children ages two and three. “Since these children are so young and cannot read yet, their parents have to read to them,” she says. “It not only stimulates their imaginations and creativity, it’s a great way for parents and kids to develop a routine and strengthens a bond between them. When parents and children read together, it creates children who become avid readers.”
Although it might sound like a large number of books to read, Walk discloses that quite a few children have met the 1,000 books challenge. Along with their utter zeal for reading, children who reach that impressive mark will be awarded a Target gift card as a final prize.
For Walk and the rest of the Butler Library staff, the program is all about encouraging literacy, enjoyment, and learning to ensure the children’s future success. “We are so excited, every time a child completes a book, or log brochure, we make a big deal about it,” she prides. “When a child just begins to read, they discover the pleasures of books and the joy of reading. The 1,000 book challenge is just one example of how books can bring joy into the lives of children and how going to the library to choose books to read is an adventure. It will prepare them for bigger and better things when they enter school.”