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Library program preps preschoolers in reading before kindergarten

You’re never too young to enjoy a good book, even a picture book. The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District has implemented a new program, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, aimed at preschool children. It proposes that toddlers have 1,000 books read to them by the time they enter kindergarten.

“We do a lot of work toward early literacy aimed at children before they enter school, so this was a very simple program for parents to do,” said Mary Nelson Brown, youth services coordinator for the library district. “I thought it was a great way to encourage parents to read to their children … It’s not a real intensive program.”

Nelson Brown said she first heard of the program a couple of years ago, when it was being implemented on the East Coast.

When a donation came in for children’s programming, she utilized a portion of it to set up the program. Nelson Brown declined to say who provided the donation or how much it was.

The program launched in January and is available at all library district branches. Parents get a folder introducing them to the program and giving them tracking sheets and suggestions for age-appropriate books.

“It’s designed to emphasize to parents that the earlier you start sharing books and reading to your child, the more successful they’ll be when they’re ready to read on their own,” Nelson Brown said.

She said the 1,000-book goal was a realistic one. If only one bedtime story is read to a child every night for three years, that totals 1,095, the district’s literature noted. Read three books, and in a year you’ve reached that same number.

Nelson Brown started doing the program with her nephew, Philip, who recently turned 6.

“He comes over to my house sometimes on weekends, and he wants to read,” she said. “We might read 20 books in a row.”

Jennifer Jost, young people’s librarian at the Rainbow Library, 3150 N. Buffalo Drive, said weekly story time is popular, generally seeing 25 to 40 children at each session. She showed a folder that is handed out for the 1,000 Books program.

“They fill this out, so anytime they read a book to their children, they write it down,” she said. “Even if they read the same book more than once, they write it down. It counts.”

Once the log sheet is filled, the parent turns it in and gets a little character to indicate their progress. Jost said 10 families had hit the 1,000th book mark.

Jahee Koga brought her 6-month-old to story time at the Rainbow Library. She said she is Korean and that in Korea, reading with children is heavily promoted. How often does she read to her child?

“Every day,” she said. “When I was a baby, it was like we almost lived at the library. It was (part of) our lives. Still I like reading.”

Nadine Spencer brought her granddaughter, Indica, 7.

“I remember having all these amazing adventures through books. When I grew up, we didn’t have TV 24/7,” she said.

She said she has fond memories of reading to Indica but that now Indica reads to her.

Stories read to a class at preschool can count toward the 1,000-book goal. The idea is to make reading a habit, Nelson Brown said.

The number of books is recorded by the parent via an honor system. The 1,000 books is a suggested goal, but any number of books read with a child is a plus. The program’s true intention, Nelson Brown said, is to instill a lifelong love for books, increasing a child’s vocabulary, an awareness of what a library offers, feeling comfortable at a library and becoming a good reader. Another plus is more face time with Mom and Dad.

Incentives include a canvas book bag for the child after 500 books have been read to them. At 1,000 books, they receive a T-shirt touting the program. The parent receives “Read With Me: Best Books for Preschoolers” by Stephanie Zvirin, which lists age-appropriate books so parents have a reference for finding new books their child might enjoy. The district ordered 300 copies and had not yet decided what title might replace it or if it would be reordered.

The library district has been promoting the program online, through its outreach programs at preschools, in its Highlights publication and in the children’s sections at each branch. Book displays have proven a visual that result in parents snatching them off the shelf tops. Word of mouth also is proving effective.

To sign up for the program, visit the Children’s Services Desk at local library district branches.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.