York County Libraries launches ‘1000 Books Before Kindergarten’ program

The new program starting this fall wants to help York County families to get a jump start on literacy.

Story sponsored by: York County Libraries
Written by: Tim Stonesifer and Anthony Machcinski
Story time programs at libraries throughout York County are one of several ways for children to begin reading “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” — a new initiative that challenges local families to read together. Above, Gina Meinl, youth services coordinator, leads a recent story event at Kaltreider-Benfer Library in Red Lion. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

The 5-year-old girl scurried from the treehouse, chasing her friend down the street toward the beach and eventually around the moon.

Not long after, Abby Boyd and her pal Pete the Cat returned to their local library, where Mom and her little brother Levi were waiting with the family’s new maid, Amelia Bedelia.

Abby’s imaginary journeys make her mother smile, and it’s one of the reasons Beth Boyd exposes her young children to the plethora of storybook characters that live at the Kaltreider-Benfer Library in Red Lion.

“She loves books, and she loves the library,” Beth says of her daughter. “I think that has a lot to do with how great the libraries are here and how fun they’ve always made it.”

The books, though, do more than spark imagination.

Story time events across the various York County Libraries locations aren't just about reading books; they also encourage social interaction and movement. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Helping parents help their kids

Studies show that reading with young children builds their vocabulary and increases concentration. Children who are read to early on display better language skills and are more likely to have the socialization necessary to succeed in school.

Thanks to a program starting this fall, York County Libraries is offering a new opportunity for young children like the Boyds. The “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” initiative challenges local families to read together, offering both prizes and something much more important: a jump start on literacy.

“A lot of people think if they come to the library before their kid starts school, they’ll be OK,” says Paula Gilbert, director of youth services for York County Libraries. “They don’t realize they have to help children get ready for school. The libraries’ new early learning program is designed to assist.”

“1000 Books Before Kindergarten” encourages parents to read to their newborns, infants and toddlers 1,000 times. Along the way, the local libraries will celebrate reading milestones with rewards like bookbags and T-shirts, and they’ll even host an annual graduation ceremony.

Story time events across the various York County Libraries locations aren’t just reading books; they also encourage social interaction and movement. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Story time events across the various York County Libraries locations aren’t just reading books; they also encourage social interaction and movement. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Story time events across the various York County Libraries locations aren’t just reading books; they also encourage social interaction and movement. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Reading to children before kindergarten helps kids build vocabulary, identifies reading as a pleasurable activity and helps develop background knowledge on a variety of topics. (Photos by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Big steps, little effort

It doesn’t matter whether the parents and their children are an English-speaking family from Red Lion or a Spanish-speaking household in the city — the program remains the same.

“We wanted the same experiences in all places,” Paula says. “We added family-friendly spaces in all of our libraries.”

The program doesn’t require much effort, either. Reading the average children’s book only takes about 15 minutes, and the program is free for those who sign up. All that’s required is a library card.

Caregivers don’t have to read 1,000 different books – reading the same book several times over counts.

“Kids like to hear the same story over and over. You can read the same book,” Paula says. “You’re sharing time with your child. You are listening and talking with them, seeing how they respond to the story. You’re helping them to develop.”

While taking a break from reading a story, Khrixis Medina-Webb, 2, dances with a scarf over his head at a recent event at Kaltreider-Benfer Library in Red Lion. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

‘A treasure trove of benefits’

Reading 1,000 books may seem like a lot, but if families read one book a day, they’ll reach 1,000 books in three years. That time can prove invaluable.

In their “Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years” book, authors Susan Hall and Louisa Moats say when a caregiver reads a lot, a child:

• develops background knowledge on a variety of topics;

• builds vocabulary;

• develops a familiarity with story structure;

• and identifies reading as a pleasurable activity.

Even if it’s just 15 minutes, the program allows parents to get some quality time with their children and provides a chance for adults to escape the stresses of the real world.

“So much of our world today is in constant motion, and we don’t slow down like we should,” says Dr. Marie Kellett with Family First Health. “Getting a book into a child’s hands is still so important and can really change outcomes.”

Story time isn't just sitting around and listening. Gina Meinl, youth services coordinator, allows Kinley Russell, 7, Levi Boyd, 4, and Abby Boyd, 5, a chance to interact with the story. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Interactive partnership

For Paula, the program is a chance to get children ready for kindergarten.  “We want parents to know they don’t have to wait. They can start bringing their children to the library from the day they are born,” she says.

Teams wouldn’t prep for a football season by getting in the weight room the day before the season started, so why wait to prep a child for learning?

She wants parents to be aware that the library is everywhere, and that’s it’s an interactive partnership.

“We’re here to support them as they raise their children,” she says. “And, it’s free.”

Get started

Click here to see the quick & easy steps to get you started on your goal of 1,000 books!

Story sponsored by York County Libraries

yorklibraries.org
159 E. Market Street, York, PA 17402
717-846-5300

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