ELKTON — The Cecil County Public Library has launched a program called “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” to establish regular reading routines as early as possible in a child’s life and continue those habits throughout early childhood years.

The program was created in partnership with Cecil County Public Schools and the Cecil County Early Childhood Advisory Council after CCPS was awarded a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant from the Maryland State Department of Education in 2018, according to Rachel Wright, CCPL associate director.

Wright said the program is meant to “champion reading in families with children ages birth to five.”

“By providing a framework which encourages family engagement, inspires a love of reading, and establishes regular reading routines, we ensure children have the opportunity to develop early literacy skills essential for kindergarten readiness and future school success,” she said.

Program participants receive a special booklet, created by CCPL librarians and illustrated by Tyler Koch, which will help them track their reading, develop early literacy skills, and foster a love of books through fun, family-oriented activities, according to Katelyn McLimans, CCPL youth services coordinator.

The booklet includes well-known nursery rhymes and fairy tales, as well as colorful illustrations to keep young readers’ attention.

McLimans said the program establishes some of the building block skills that will lay the foundation for learning later in life.

“Sharing and reading 1,000 books together ensures they will have numerous opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with parents and caregivers, to practice creative and critical thinking, and to develop vocabulary and language skills — all of which are essential to future school success,” she said. “Research shows children who read regularly with their families enter kindergarten ready for school and are better prepared to learn.”

Although reading 1,000 books may seem like a daunting task, McLimans said it’s actually quite reasonable to accomplish with the right reading routine. Plus, re-reading books can count as separate book interactions, so young readers can quickly fill the list of books they’ve read by meeting some new literary friends or revisiting some old favorites.

“Recognizing that families with young children will read multiple books in one sitting and that they will receive multiple requests for repeated readings of the same book, books that are repeated can be counted toward their goal every time they are shared,” McLimans said. “Families who read just one book per day with their children will finish the program in less than three years, and for children who are quickly approaching kindergarten, reading just three books per day will allow them to reach their goal in less than a year.”

Participants can also use the new “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” library card, which allows families to check out up to 20 items at a time without accruing any overdue fines, said Frazier Walker, CCPL community relations manager.

“With this special card, families can check out up to 20 items at a time without any overdue fines, which is especially important for families of young children who may read multiple titles in one sitting,” Walker said. “In providing this card to those participating in the 1,000 Books program, we hope to make it even easier for families to reach their goal of reading 1,000 books before kindergarten.”

Christina McKelvey Dawson said being part of the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program has helped her 3-year-old son develop his reading skills.

Before starting the program, Dawson said her son would have books read to him at different story-time sessions and at home several times a week. But since beginning the program, Dawson said her son’s reading habits have changed, with him loving to be read to some afternoons and every night.

Sometimes Dawson reads to her son, sometimes her husband does, and other times they all read together.

So far, Dawson said her family has read 360 books and that her son even has a few books that he can repeat the words.

Some of his favorite books include “Pajama Time” and “Barnyard Dance” by Sandra Boynton, “Groovy Joe Ice Cream and Dinosaurs” by Eric Litwin and Tom Lichtenheld, “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?” by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle, and “God Bless My Boo” by Hannah Hall and Steven Whitlow.

Dawson said the program helps instill and maintain that love of learning in children.

“I think this is a wonderful program for everyone to enjoy,” she said. “It’s fun and keeps the kids wanting to read more.”

Families with children ages birth through five who have not yet entered kindergarten can register for the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program and the special library card by visiting any CCPL branch. While there, they can also attend CCPL’s early childhood classes and story times where any books read also count toward a family’s total of 1,000 books.

For more information about the program as well as upcoming events and classes, people can visit www.cecil.ebranch.info.

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