Historically, parents have always wanted more for their child; more schooling, more friends, more life success; more money; and although a person’s life achievements are gained by their own efforts, if provided a solid platform at the beginning, those wants have a 67% greater chance of becoming haves.

Libraries across Steuben, LaGrange, Noble and DeKalb counties offer tools to create that platform through the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge.

The challenge was created by the 1,000 Books Foundation, a volunteer-based charitable organization in Las Vegas, Nevada, to promote literacy and education by encouraging parent-child—newborn, infant and toddler aged—bonding through reading.

“Reading to your children at an early age has several benefits,” said Lisa Eisinger, Fremont Public Library’s children’s librarian and tech services. “Not only does it give you quality time together, but you are helping to develop social and vocabulary skills.”

Eisinger said, since Fremont Public Library, located in Steuben County, implemented the challenge, 43 pre-kindergarten children have completed the challenge.

“Their pictures are permanently displayed in our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten photo album that is located in our Children’s area and are also included in the monthly newsletter that follows their completion of the program,” she added. “We had 12 children sign up last year, even with everything that was happening with (the Coronovirus).”

Utilizing equally vital parts of early human development—communication through reading and positive human interaction through parental bonding—the challenge aims to increase a child’s academic success before formal education begins.

“People used to be surprised by the more advanced words that my oldest daughter used and understood when she was as young as 4-years-old,” said Eisinger. “I absolutely believe it was because we read to her from the time she was an infant.”

According to a 2008 study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the critical years of early brain development occur before age 5, before formal education begins, typically around the age of 5, parents and caregivers serve as a child’s primary educator.

“It’s a good way to get kids excited about learning,” said Noble County Public Library Adult Services Manager Suzie Pender. “My husband and I read to our 2-year-old son and because we read differently from one another he is exposed to different styles of reading which makes it more fun.”

Since offering the challenge in 2016, Pender said Noble County Public Library has had 20 area youth complete the challenge, out of the 170 that registered.

“Reading to your child at an early age not only encourages that child-parent relationship and positive bonding, it plays a huge part in strengthening their vocabulary and understanding of words,” she added.

In fact, a study posted by the Pediatric Journal in 2010 found that “children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.”

It also encourages social, emotional and cognitive development, increases a child’s ability to learn language skills before age six, giving them a larger vocabulary before kindergarten, the study reported.

“People used to be surprised by the more advanced words that my oldest daughter used and understood when she was as young as four,” said Eisinger. “I absolutely believe it was because we read to her from the time she was an infant.”

Youth Services Assistant at the Topeka Branch of the LaGrange Public Library, Tiffany Krapfl, said children that are read to an early age will continue to expand their vocabulary and have a greater understanding of language.

Krapfl said three children have completed the challenge with 24 having registered at the Topeka Branch.

Dekalb County Public Libraries, also participants of the challenge, offer parents a way to get started.

“You can do it. (Read) one book a day for three years, (that equals) 1,095 books. Three books a day for one year equals 1,095 books. Look for storytime programs at your local branch. Books read at storytime programs count toward your goal of reading 1,000 books.”

Want to participate, but on a smaller scale?

Join thousands of parents and caregivers across the country and read one book to a child on Oct. 2 as part of the 1,000 Books Foundation’s The Big Read 2021.

The annual one-day, virtual event was created by the foundation to promote positive family interactions and help kick start early education and literacy.

Readers can also help raise awareness of the one day, one book initiative with other parents by posting a photo of themselves with their child and the book, post it to any social media site with the hashtag #TheBigRead2021.

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