Lisa Mulvenna, the head of youth and young adult services at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, poses with some books in Clinton Township after a program she helped launch led to the reading of more than 100,000 books by local kindergarteners.

Lisa Mulvenna, the head of youth and young adult services at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, poses with some books in Clinton Township after a program she helped launch led to the reading of more than 100,000 books by local kindergarteners.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Local kids reach reading milestone

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published August 6, 2019

 Children document their favorite books from this summer.

Children document their favorite books from this summer.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — In the fall of 2015, all three branches of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library — located in Clinton and Macomb townships — used a national initiative called “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” to spur creativity and imagination in children up to age 5.

About 954 children registered to embark on this journey.

In late July, the 100,000-book milestone was reached.

“What I really like about our program is that parents can tailor it to their needs,” said Lisa Mulvenna, the head of youth and young adult services at the CMPL. “If they want to write down the book titles, they can. If they want to just color the book icons, they can. If they want to bring in a piece of scrap paper with hash marks, they can. The goal is to encourage families to read with their young children.”

Parents picked up, and can still pick up, logging sheets for manual documentation. Or parents can use an online program called Beanstalk that tracks all the books their children have read. Any book counts toward the goal.

For every 100 books a child reads, he or she is given a sticker as a reward.

Mulvenna said that while children are rewarded for their efforts, it’s not out of the question that perhaps adults may be rewarded in some way in the future — currently, a program like this does not exist for adults.

However, she admitted that “most of the work” is aimed toward adults encouraging their children to read prior to reaching kindergarten.

Literacy is the ultimate goal, due to stagnating Michigan literacy rates. Reading comprehension has plateaued or worsened, while other subject fields have shown improvement.

The library states that the literacy crisis “is a result of the lack of reading practices at home.” Library officials said that the most important preparation adults can provide for soon-to-be kindergarteners is to “simply read books out loud with their children.”

Mulvenna provided more data: More than 1 in 3 children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning, and once they are behind, they are more likely to stay that way; some children will hear 30 million fewer words than their peers before age 4. Studies show that the number of words a child knows when entering kindergarten is predictive of future success; only 48% of young children in the U.S. are read to each day, but children rapidly learn language, often quadrupling the number of words they know between ages 1 and 2.

During the 2017-18 school year, the average of third graders who had passing grades in the English language arts category on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress was 44.38% statewide, and 44.02% in Macomb County.

“Here at CMPL, we really focus on the five early literacy skills — talking, reading, writing, singing and playing — in all of our early childhood programs,” she said. “These skills help build pre-reading skills, which help children be ready to learn to read when they enter school. Some of these programs are interactive and in-person, such as our story times or ‘Play to Learn’ programs. Others are more passive and are designed for the child and caregiver to do at home, such as our ‘1,000 Books Before Kindergarten’ program.

“When children see their important adults — parents, grandparents, etc. — reading, this shows them that reading is important and they are more eager to learn. Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher.”

The program is ongoing. To become a participant, visit cmpl.org/1000-books-kindergarten.

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