By Kevin Kelley
In June, Gov. John Kasich signed a new law that requires third-grade students across the state to demonstrate competency in reading before being promoted to the fourth grade.
To help area students and their parents prepare for the new academic requirements, Westlake Porter Public Library has launched the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. Created by a library in Indiana, the program encourages youngsters to keep track of the books they read.
About 80 children have enrolled in Porter’s version of the free program, which launched Jan. 2. Parents who register their children for the program at Porter’s youth services desk will receive a packet that includes a book bag, a reading log and pamphlets describing other children’s programs at the library.
“We wanted to do something that would encourage reading skills at the youngest level,” said Jamie Dinan, the early learning specialist at Porter.
In addition to preparing youngsters for school, Dinan hopes the program will help parents instill in children a lifelong love of reading.
“They’re showing their kids that books are fun,” Dinan explained.
Depending on the child’s age, books can be read by the parent, by the child or together.
While the goal of having a child read 1,000 books before kindergarten might seem insurmountable, Dinan said it’s not that difficult.
“If you read three books a day for a year, that’s over 1,000,” she said.
The same book, especially a young child’s favorite, can be read multiple times, with each reading counting toward the goal of 1,000, Dinan explained.
“Children like repetition, and repetition, in fact, is a good way for children to learn,” she said.
Rewards, such as stickers, will be given to children for every 100 books they read. Once the 1,000 mark is reached, children will receive a certificate of achievement and have their name placed in one of the library’s new picture books.
In addition to improving reading skills, participation in the program can help youngsters develop their listening skills and attention span, Dinan said. Children less than 2 develop motor skills just by handling the book and turning its pages, she added. And reading together nurtures the bond between child and parent, she said.
Dinan said it’s important for parents to make reading a positive experience for their children. If the child becomes frustrated, it’s best to put the book away for a while instead of forcing the issue, she said.