Celebrating early readers: Thousands of books and counting

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten graduate
Bronson, a graduate of the library’s 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program

It’s been one year since we launched our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, and our early readers are off to a fabulous start.

The library’s long-term reading program is designed to prepare babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to arrive ready to learn come kindergarten. So far, 36 families have achieved the goal of reading 1,000 books together before their children start kindergarten.

“This program has been thoroughly embraced by our families,” said Early Literacy Librarian Shelley Harris.

In the first 12 months, more than 1,200 children signed up, and families read an estimated 140,000 books. (This impressive number includes each time the same book is read over and over, Harris notes.)

“We have always been avid readers,” said Sarah Watson, the mother of one finisher (3-year-old Bronson, pictured). “And we can’t really think of a time when we weren’t reading to him. He has always enjoyed stories, and we are happy to indulge him.”

1,000 Books Graduation Gala

A gala for graduates

For the program’s first anniversary in November, we hosted 13 of our finishers and their families in an afternoon full of literacy fun at the Dole Branch, complete with caps, gowns, and diplomas.

Kids drew their own books and designed bookmarks, made graduation caps, did some mess-free painting, and read some great books.

“One mother shared that the program set them up on a routine of daily reading that hasn’t stopped, well after 1,000 books,” Harris said.

Never too early

So far, finishers have ranged from ages 1 to 5. It’s never too early to sign up, as the program is open to kids from birth until they start kindergarten. An Oak Park library card is not required to sign up.

“The children are definitely finding the prizes very motivating,” Harris said. “We have bubbles, we add their names via bookplate to a favorite book, and we gift them a book at the end. One finisher was so delighted with his new book that he couldn’t look away, even for a celebratory photo!”

Read how 1,000 Books launched a daily reading habit for one family »

Read tips from the dad of our first 1,000 Books finisher »