Thursday, May 15, 2014

Story about 1,000 books has a happy ending

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
May 15, 2014

If you were writing the book of a child's life wouldn't you like it to have a happy ending? Every day more children are signing up for a Kalamazoo Public Library program intended to give them a life that includes loving the reading of books. 

Once upon a time there was a child hungry for words. Words strung together make stories, and stories make a child’s heart race and imagination soar, so this child picked up a book and then picked up 999 more.

Andrea Vernola, children’s programming librarian at Kalamazoo Public Library, 315 South Rose Street, knows this story well. Together with Sue Warner, head of youth services, and Judy Rambow, lead librarian at Alma Powell and Eastwood Branch Libraries, the three sat down to brainstorm a new children’s reading program called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. It’s a program of a thousand "once upon a times" with happy endings.

"You can read the book yourself or have it read to you," says Vernola. "You can read the book to your brother or sister and it will count for both of you. You can sing the book, or you can just tell the book. Whatever builds enjoyment in the process of reading."

The new 1,000 Books program, launched in December 2013 and partially funded by a Target Early Childhood Reading grant, has about 350 children signed up to date, with more signing up daily. All five branches are involved: the central library in downtown Kalamazoo, Eastwood, Oshtemo, Alma Powell and Washington Square. 

"1,000 books may sound like a lot," says Vernola with a smile. "But it’s not so many that it’s impossible, and there is no timeline. The preschoolers? Not at all overwhelmed by such a number. Eight have reached the goal already. They get excited!"

The program, Vernola says, was made as easy as possible to complete. Sign up at any library location, pick up a reading log or download one; record each book that you share and enjoy, even the ones you repeat more than once; bring it in to your friendly children’s librarian each time you reach 50 books.

"Then we give the child a prize," says Vernola. "Stickers, pencils, bookmarks. Kids love stickers. At 250, 500 and 750 books read, the child gets a book of their own, to keep. At 1,000, we award a certificate of completion and a KPL tote bag."

Reading with your baby, toddler or preschooler, Vernola says, is the best way to prepare a child for reading on his or her own. "Research shows that reading with a child improves vocabulary, introduces a child to sounds, phonics--not to mention strengthens family bonding. You can’t quantify that, but the kind of family bonding built on reading together helps a child in all areas of life."

Vernola points to a study by the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP), that says 37 percent of children reaching fourth grade fail to attain basic levels of reading achievement. That percentage climbs even higher when paired with ...


Listen Tuesday, May 20, at 7:50 a.m., 9:50 a.m., 4:29 p.m., 5:44 p.m., for Zinta Aistars' report on the 1,000 Books program (or listen online) on WMUK, 102.1 FM.

Kalamazoo Public Library

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