In 2013, the New Glarus Public Library began planning our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. With the statewide Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative encouraging public libraries to provide early literacy support to parents and caregivers, we felt that a 1,000 Books program would be an effective way for us to share literacy resources with our youngest patrons and their families.
We researched other libraries’ 1,000 Books programs with great interest, to learn more about how others have structured their programs. Our goal was to develop a program that was easily accessible to families and provided them with early literacy resources, yet wouldn’t be too time-consuming for staff to maintain. The structure we finally decided on was simple. The program is open to all children birth through age five, who have not yet started five-year-old kindergarten. Parents or caregivers can sign up at the library, or through the online registration form on our library’s home page. (We do ask that parents have a valid library card.)
Each participant receives a reading log and a sturdy canvas book bag, donated by the local elementary school. Our reading logs keep track of 100 books per page, and families are asked to bring in each completed page in order to receive the next page of the reading log. In recognition of their reading achievements, children earn a book to keep at the completion of the 100, 300, 600, and 1,000 book levels. We also have a “wall of fame” in our entryway, where we post pictures of participants each time they finish a reading level.
To connect with caregivers, we have started a monthly 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten newsletter, where we provide families with reading tips, activity ideas, book recommendations, and early literacy information. Our Pinterest page also has a board dedicated to favorite preschool books and authors. We have been promoting the program though newspaper articles, Facebook posts, the library website, and community outreach. The New Glarus Elementary School has been a wonderful partner, sending home program brochures with their youngest students, as well as inviting the library to staff a table at their recent Child Development Days event.
The final piece fell into place when the Community Foundation of New Glarus awarded us a grant to help cover program expenses. Through their generosity, we are able to provide children with quality books that they can add to their own book collections. Our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program launched on January 21st, 2014, and in the first month, we’ve had twenty-nine children sign up. Both parents and children have told us how much they enjoy the time they spend reading together. We enjoy knowing that we are helping the children of our community become lifelong learners.