A child’s exposure to books up to the age of 5 is crucial to determining their future success in school. With parts of Hartford having the potential to be classified as a “book desert,” meaning there is no easy access to reading materials, some children are behind before they even get started.

One of the remedies is a simple one. Reading to a child is one of the best ways to develop vocabulary and instill in them a life-long love of reading & learning.

HPL’s children’s department is taking active steps to help encourage a steady reading practice by participating in the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program. The program offers prizes and incentives for every 100 books a child reads.

“1000 Books before Kindergarten” is one part of HPLs Leap into Learning Program that serves children birth to 5, their parents and adult caregivers, child care providers and youth & family community organizations with services and resources to ensure all children in Hartford are prepared to enter Kindergarten ready to learn.

“It shows them that reading is important, that it is something they can do regularly,” said Denise Martens, HPL’s manager of youth and family services.

While everything about the program is rooted in a sense of fun, the stakes are high.

“Having children read or have read to them a thousand books will increase their chance for success when they get to kindergarten,” Martens said.

She knows that 1,000 books sounds daunting to the average parent – who has the time to read that much or has access to that number of books?

“I break it down for parents in small pieces,” Martens said. “Two books a day, for five days a week, take the weekends off. That’s 250 books in a year right there.”

Reading the same book over and over counts as well, Martens said. The repetition helps a child with letter recognition, tracking the lines of text, and learning about the parts of the book, all important pre-literacy skills.

Quite a few children have made the 1,000 book goal and it’s always cause for joy. HPL’s librarians throw a huge party for the kids who’ve finished to recognize their achievement.

“It’s a true celebration,” Martens said.

– by Steven Scarpa, manager of communications and public relations


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