Library joins 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program

By: Alex Tekip | Advertiser Times | Published June 1, 2016

 Stars on a bulletin board in the Harper Woods library’s children’s section track the progress of readers in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program.

Stars on a bulletin board in the Harper Woods library’s children’s section track the progress of readers in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program.

Photo by Alex Tekip

HARPER WOODS — The Harper Woods Public Library recently joined hundreds of libraries in Michigan as a participant in the nationwide 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.

The program’s goal is in its name: to have children read 1,000 books before they enter kindergarten. According to the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten website, www.1000booksbeforekindergarten.org, the program aims to promote reading in newborns, infants and toddlers, and to encourage parents and children to bond through reading.

Harper Woods began participating in 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten in March.

“It’s received some good buzz with some other libraries,” said Library Director B. Kristen Valyi-Hax. “I know the Roseville Public Library is doing it, quite a few nearby other libraries are doing it as well, and this was something we wanted to bring to our residents too.”

The Harper Woods library is part of the Suburban Library Cooperative, a library network in the Macomb County area. It is one of 21 libraries in the Suburban Library Cooperative participating in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.

Youth Services Librarian Beth Bruns said she’s excited to bring the program to the Harper Woods library after hearing about it from other libraries, particularly those in the Suburban Library Cooperative.

“Personally, the early childhood education is important to me, and so I really like focusing on that age group and things that we can do to help families get their kids ready to read,” said Bruns.

Bruns said reading 1,000 books before kindergarten is not as daunting as it sounds. She described the program as easy and low-key.

Reading two or three books to a child every night would make it so the 1,000 books mark is met after one year. Books can be repeated and don’t have to be read by the same person every day.

“Repetition is actually really great for little kids,” said Bruns.

Parents can come to the Harper Woods Public Library, 19601 Harper Ave., and get a folder and a reusable bag to keep. In the folder, there are reading records with 100 circles. Each time a parent reads a book with his or her child, they cross off a circle. When they fill up the sheet of 100, they return it to the library, and the child’s name will be put on a star on a bulletin board to track their progress. The star moves up for every 100 books completed. The library also gives a free book to keep for every 100 books read.

Bruns said 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is generating a moderate amount of interest at the Harper Woods library.

“We have 60 starting kits and we’ve given away about half so far,” she said. “There’s been a few that have turned in their first- or second-level 100 sheets.”

Bruns acknowledged that getting an energetic toddler to settle down and read a book can be a difficult task. She said that once parents make reading a habit, they’re likely to find it an enjoyable activity to do with their child, especially if the parent tries an alternative style of reading.

“There’s lots of ways to be creative, and you can talk about words and books not just in the sit-down-and-be-quiet-and-listen type of way,” said Bruns.

Bruns suggested having a child flip through a book while riding in the car, talking about only the pictures, letting the child lead the page flipping, breaking down a book so it isn’t finished in one sitting and developing a reading routine at bedtime as potential ways for a parent to read to a child. She stressed the importance of parent-child interactions — touching each other’s hands, hearing each other’s voices, having a conversation — when reading.

“Those are the kinds of interactions that help their brain make new connections and that don’t come from passive activities like watching TV or video games, which even if they may be educational, they’re not getting the same kind of language development from those activities,” she said.

Valyi-Hax said reading to a child benefits the child in school and at home.

“Kids who are read to before kindergarten have a much stronger start and do better in school,” she said. “They are more prepared for school, and it fosters good family learning, family time, family togetherness.”

Valyi-Hax said the Harper Woods library is working to promote education and family by participating in 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.

“Having the kids come in (to the library) with their parents to learn is really a benefit for us and for the community and for the families,” she said.