In a school district without 4-year-old kindergarten, Brookfield and Elm Grove librarians are hoping a new reading program will help children prepare for kindergarten and start the trajectory of their educations on a positive foot.
"The goal is not to create super-readers," Elm Grove Youth Librarian Sue Daniels said. "This is not an Einstein Project. The goal is to lay a good foundation for kids before they get to kindergarten."
Launching in Elm Grove on Jan. 6 and in Brookfield Jan. 13, the national program "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten" aims to put kids in contact with more than 1,000 books before they start school. Contact doesn't have to mean reading, but it means holding books, being read to, looking at the pictures and talking about the stories. Books can be repeated and counted multiple times.
"It's all about interaction with books," Daniels said. "On the surface it's an incentive to get families reading, but it's also to encourage parents to make the most of that reading time."
Children and their parents can log the books they read in a folder provided by the library, and consider provided tips that encourage parents to ask questions about the stories or point out certain words on the page.
"Little kids don't make connections between letters on a page and what's going on in a story," Daniels said.
From her experience in story time with young children at the library, Daniels said, the difference is clear between those who already have had experiences with books and those who are newer to them.
"You can tell the kids who have exposure to books," she said. "They know what to look for in a book, they get the connections between words and they can answer questions on what might happen next."
Elm Grove Library Director Svetlana Foley said she hopes the initiative leaves a lasting impact.
"We're trying to create a love of reading starting at an early age," she said. "There are a number of studies that show if students are exposed to books at a very early age it makes a significant different in a person's life."
Kids will earn various prizes for their participation. At the Elm Grove Public Library, kids can get stickers and stamps for every 100 books they log, and every finisher will get their name on a plate in a library book that will be kept in the library's collection. The Brookfield Public Library plans to give out books to those who reach 1,000.
Enrollment is ongoing for the indefinite future. Daniels said more ambitious readers could finish the program in a year, at three books a day, but she expects the program to more typically take closer to three years, at about a book a day.
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