BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent District Library has launched its revamped program challenging kids and caregivers to read 1,000 books by kindergarten.
The revamped program includes a newly designed tracking book, a tracking poster and a way to track progress digitally. The program now also features Michigan woodland creatures.
The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program was first launched in 2015. Dawn Heerspink, a branch librarian in youth services at the Byron Township branch and the person who oversaw the project, said it was time to revamp it to make it fresh for a new audience.
“We also felt like the theme before with the old program, we just had a random collection of animals, which was fine, but we felt like really tying it to Michigan and West Michigan and animals kids would recognize and be excited about was really important,” she said.
Kids and caregivers will mark off the icons in the tracking book for every book they read — everything from a repeated book to a book read at a story time event counts. The new tracking books are wire-bound and can be hung up like calendars.
After every 100 books, kids can stop in at the library to get a progress sticker, a group of woodland creatures starting with a fish and ending with a robin.
Once kids hit the 1,000 book goal, they are rewarded with a special book bag that is decorated with a robin.
“We like to give the children a book bag because then they can take ownership over their library visits or if they’re going to the bookstore, because there’s nothing like picking out your own book,” Heerspink said.
KDL is hoping more kids and caregivers will be able to finish the program after the revamping. Since 2015, a couple hundred kids have finished it, she said.
“We want to help parents to not only start the program, but complete the program,” Heerspink said. “We’re hoping to raise those numbers with this new program and really create a community of readers.”
The program has a lot of benefits of children’s early literacy and learning skills, she said. For infants, it helps them learn how to use books: Heerspink pointed out if someone handed you a hammer but you’d never been taught what it’s for, you wouldn’t know what to do with it.
The same is true for infants and books, who often will chew on board books or throw them like a ball as they’re trying to figure out what to do with them.
Heerspink said it’s important to model things like turning the page.
The program also helps kids learn things like what a title and author are and encourages them to view reading as fun.
Heerspink said while reading 1,000 books by kindergarten may seem daunting, it’s actually pretty easy: Just reading a book a day for three years will get you past 1,000 books.
She said the library is also encouraging parents to get multiple people in their kid’s life involved in the goal, like aunts, uncles and nannies.
“Anyone who’s involved in the child’s life can contribute to their reading and learning success,” she said.
Heerspink said parents and caregivers have shown a lot of excitement over the revamped program. When her coworker announced it during a story time, everyone wanted a booklet, she said.
Parents are especially concerned about their kids’ learning after the pandemic, she said.
“We just want to come alongside them and say, ‘This is really easy. There’s easy ways that you can help your child grow and develop,'” she said.