There are books I used to read so often with my children – their tiny bodies snuggled on my lap, toes wrapped inside footie pajamas, damp hair smelling like Johnson’s baby shampoo – that I still remember the words by heart:
“One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry …”
“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy …”
“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one …”
“Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how …”
“But, little Mouse, haven’t you heard about the big, hungry Bear? …”
“I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day …”
Reading to – and with – kids is one of the best things you can do. Educators know that, and so do librarians.
Which explains the Wichita Public Library’s latest campaign: the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten reading challenge. This year, our local library is joining libraries across the country in providing parents with an organized program to help grow children’s early literacy skills.
Parents of children 6 and under who haven’t yet started kindergarten can pick up a free “1000 Books” folder at any Wichita library location. Inside is a tracking sheet that your child can color each time you read a book, along with book lists, language development tips and more.
After you read your first 100 books, take the completed sheet to the library and exchange it for a free tote bag. Continue to win along the way, returning to the library after 300, 500, 700 and 1,000 books to collect more prizes.
(My kids are too old for this challenge, but I have to say: The tracking sheet is so appealingly simple, with its field of tiny circles, that I’m tempted to print one and use it for my own reading resolution.)
One thousand books sounds like a lot. But you know the typical bedtime-story scenario – “One more,” your child says, fetching that copy of “Olivia” in hopes of delaying lights-out just a little bit longer – so chances are you can pore through hundreds in no time.
Also, the books you log for the challenge don’t have to be different. If your child wants to hear “Curious George” five times in a row, that’s five books to check off the sheet.
“We want to encourage that because children learn through repetition,” said Erin Downey Howerton, children’s manager for the Wichita library.
“So when they’re begging to read that favorite book over and over again, what they’re really saying is, ‘Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. I really want to learn some more. I really want that to soak in.’ ”
Books read during library story time events also count. Those start up again Tuesday, with 18 story times each week at various Wichita library branches.
Or check out the half-dozen books quoted at the start of this column, some of my family’s all-time, over-and-over-again favorites: “Jamberry,” by Bruce Degen; “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein; “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen; “Barnyard Dance,” by Sandra Boynton; “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear,” by Don Wood; and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” by Judith Viorst.
2017 Reading Challenge
In case you missed it last week, I have issued a challenge to local readers to read at least a dozen books this year – one a month from a list of 12 categories, including a favorite book from childhood, a memoir, a book by a Kansas author or one set in Kansas, and a book with a blue cover.
To make it easier to track your progress, we have published a PDF you can download, print and post somewhere, with little boxes to check off as you go. At year’s end, participants who complete all 12 categories will be eligible for prizes.
For more information or to participate, check out our “Wichita Eagle Reading Challenge” group on Facebook.