Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Growing a Reading Oak Tree in Thorp

A 1000 Books Graduate in Thorp, WI
The Thorp Public Library, located in Thorp, WI, about 45 miles east of Eau Claire, was fortunate to receive a Growing Wisconsin Readers Mini-Grant in 2013 to implement a 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program.  This was an exciting prospect since I had heard a lot of great things about this type of program, but was never able to get one started before. I had Alice Schuelke, our Library Assistant at the time, create a theme and come up with some guidelines based on what our research found to be successful at other libraries.”  

In keeping with the ‘Growing’ idea, we decided to hang a large tree in the library for the kids to add leaves for every 100 books they read – a Reading Oak Tree. We created a bookmark that has 100 acorns on it so that every time a book is read, the children can color in an acorn and when it is filled up, they bring in the bookmark for another one and then add a leaf to our tree.  With various prizes and other small incentives along the way, it keeps the kids and parents motivated to reach 1,000 books.

We also put together a two page handout for parents that include "Easy Steps for Participation" and
The Thorp Public Library Reading Oak
"A Frequently Asked Questions" page.  The hardest part of this project was organizing the supplies so that whichever staff member was at the front desk could help a patron get their next leaf or bookmark, and also record progress and hand out appropriate incentives.  After a few tries, we finally have a system that is easy for tracking and for keeping things organized.

And after only one year, our Reading Oak Tree has grown and sprouted lots of new leaves!  We had one little girl reach 1,000 Books already and she had a big smile on her face when she got her certificate and picture in the local newspaper.  With 35 kids signed up so far we hope to keep our tree growing with lots of new leaves, and many more participants from around the community. This was a fun project that we already see the kids enjoying and benefiting from, and I’m grateful for the grant that allowed us to purchase supplies and get this program off the ground!

Julie Beloungy, Director

Photos provided by the author