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The journey of a thousand books starts with the first one

Region of Waterloo Library (RWL) programs typically run with the intent of helping those of all ages expand their minds and horizons through reading. Whether it is the Summer Reading Club, Forest of Reading, or another program, growth through literary consumption is something this – and most other libraries – push to their patrons.

Launching a new program this year, RWL is intent to get younger kids aged five and under on the right path and support lifelong learning.

The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program started this month and will run all year long with the goal of having parents read to their kids. Aimed at building reading success – as well as helping parents to bond with their kids – the program that started in the United States has been picked up by RWL and is open to individuals and families.

Sheryl Tilley, manager of library services with RWL, says the program’s goals have always been a good fit, with the pandemic situation making it an ideal time to adopt it formally.

“The big inspiration, I’ve got to say, is COVID. People are at home, and we’re able to make this virtual. We’re able to let parents reach out and engage their children. And one of the most important aspects of 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten – in addition to everything I’ve already mentioned – is bonding. So, it’s a safe, fun experience for the child to read that promotes mind body and spirit. What better time to actually promote bonding and family support with parents reading to young ones than right now?” said Tilley.

Parents can register for the program by going to the programs page on the RWL Website and sign up to take part. They will then be able to read books to their kids and track their progress online – just like the Summer Reading Club – so they can see how they are doing and continue their work to expand their children’s outlook.

“With 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten it’s the same concept [as the reading club]. It’s online tracking for the parents, so they can see where they’re trending with the number of books read and kind of challenge themselves to keep up the good work.”

When parents finish all 1,000 books, kids will receive a certificate – in addition to an expansion of their knowledge and vocabulary – to show their progress. There is no timeline to finish the program – though, of course, completing the challenge before a child enters kindergarten is a good start.

With the program, parents can read new books all the time, or even repeat books to further themselves along their path to success.

Virtual badges will be awarded to participants as they work through the program, and next year they may even implement physical prizes just as they do for the Summer Reading Club.

Tilley says it is never too early – or late – to start reading to your kids, because no matter what, the earlier a richer vocabulary is exposed to kids, the better they are set for the future.

“It creates a rich vocabulary experience for children and studies show that good vocabulary exposure, the earlier it is, the more it sets up the child for success. Again, this is that 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, so it’s never too early to start. You can start reading to your child in utero if you want, or day one when the child is born, because children recognize their mom’s voice and recognize family voices, so you can never start too early. On the other hand, it’s not too late to start. Anytime you want to start it could be age four and you hear about this program, by all means start. 1,000 Books is not a magical number what it’s doing is it’s encouraging parents to read to children,” Tilley added.

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