Building reading into each day

This summer, families with young children who sign up for our summer reading program also have the opportunity to sign up for our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. It asks families to read—you guessed it—1,000 books together before their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers become kindergarteners. After finishing 1,000 books, each child gets to pick out a book to take home and keep, and is invited to a special graduation party at the library held twice a year.

‘I don’t say no if she wants to read’

Jillian Zarlenga and her daughter, Rory, who turns 3 in August (pictured above), finished the program this spring, reading favorites like the Knuffle Bunny series by Mo Willems and many more. Here, Jillian shares some tips on making it to 1,000!

How do you fit reading into your day?

We always read for one hour after her nap. We have that protected time every single day. That’s our recovery time, where we don’t have any tantrums, and we’re not stressed. It’s like yoga for the mind.

Was it hard to reach 1,000 books?

We burned through it in 12 weeks, reading about 100 books a week. Even if you read 100 a month, you can do it. If you let the child lead the way, it goes really fast. I don’t say no if she wants to read, even if I’m doing something. She also reads with her dad, and by herself a lot.

What do you love about reading together?

So many things. It gives us inside jokes that come up months later. Suddenly she’ll talk about something we read a while ago, and we’ll giggle a lot. It’s also expanded her vocabulary and has made it so much easier to communicate.

What did you get out of participating?

Our habit of reading for an hour after Rory’s nap originated with this program. It’s really changed our day for the better. And we feel like we’re accomplishing something every week. The dishes may not be done, and the laundry may not be done, but we can say we read 100 books. And we can talk about the dishes not being done, using a wide vocabulary.

Opportunity for all

Rory is one of more than 868 kids who have signed up for 1,000 Books so far. Although the majority have been Oak Park residents, there is no Oak Park residency requirement, and a library card is not needed to sign up. The same goes for our summer reading program for all ages, Reading Takes You Everywhere! Learn more about summer reading and more opportunities for all ages »

Get early learning tips via texts and videos, attend weekly storytimes »