For more than a year, Highland resident Kayla Bryarly read two to three books a night to her sons Tommie, 5, and Emmett, 3, as part of a country-wide challenge to promote early childhood reading by completing 1,000 books.
The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge, which can be found around the country at participating libraries and stems from a Nevada-based nonprofit promoting early literacy, aims to encourage parents to read to their newborns, infants and toddlers.
To complete the challenge, parents read what amounts to sometimes multiple books and stories to their children, logging each book in a journal. Parents can repeat books if needed.
Bryarly, who calls herself an avid reader, read two to three books a night before starting the challenge, so she said the challenge came naturally to her and her kids. She learned about it at Marine’s public library, one of the many libraries in the country that partcipates in the challenge . For her boys, she said, reaching 1,000 was a big milestone. They were awarded t-shirts and certificates marking their accomplishments.
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That’s encouraged them to keep reading, Bryarly said. She said currently she’s seeing results in the form of Tommie’s first year of kindergarten at Highland Primary.
Highland Primary Assistant Principal Anne Hickey said any type of early childhood reading is a good move for parents. She said before kindergarten, children are at an age where developing a love for reading can give them a “leg up” during their first year in school.
While reading, in general, is important for pre-kindergarten children, Hickey said being read to by their parents can create a strong, early connection with reading.
“We try to encourage anyone we can to read before they enter school,” Hickey said. “That’s not them necessarily reading themselves but them hearing the literature, having conversations about books and learning about the fun of books.”
At Highland Primary, incoming children’s parents are urged to start reading to their children before they are kindergarten-aged. Hickey said that’s done through several avenues, including sending home information for students through older siblings and through a Reading Connections newsletter.
The newsletter gives book recommendations, encourages different ways to discuss books and gives parents different ways to make reading fun.
Hickey said a new partnership with Highland’s Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library also is aimed to get more incoming students reading. The library provides electronic copies of books and the school’s monthly Reading Connections newsletter helps families of all backgrounds get access to literature.
Hickey said, even with many avenues to early reading available, most kindergarten classes are still a mix of students who are already reading and students who haven’t touched a book. She said students who get that early start have less of a hill to climb when the class starts reading.
“We have kindergartners who come to us in all stages. Some who don’t know how to hold a book up to some who are already reading,” Hickey said. “They’re going to have a leg up because students who haven’t even held a book before have to start from the basics.”
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, family engagement in home literacy experiences for 3- to 5-year-old’s as a whole have been on the rise since 2001. In 2016, 41 percent of children in the age range visited the library at least once a month and 97 percent were taught letters, words or numbers at least once a week.
However, since 2001 the number of pre-kindergarten children read to by family members three or more times a week dropped from 84 percent to 81 percent.
Hickey said if parents want to set their children on the right path with early literacy, instilling a love of reading in their kids and making sure they’re reading to and with their children often is the best option. She said she recommends parents give their children books as gifts often, something that helped her develop a love for reading at a young age.
“One of the best gifts you can give a young child besides your time is a love of literature. Give them a book for their birthday, give them a book for Halloween,” Hickey said. “Hopefully, they come to school loving books and wanting to learn and if they don’t, by the time they leave kindergarten they hopefully will.”
As for the Bryarly brothers and their mom, they still are reading together each night. Bryarly said Tommie’s picked up on the alphabet fairly quickly and that she still reads three books to them a night. She said she’s glad they do, and that she believes its giving them a head start.
“They really enjoy it and I’m glad. When I was younger I enjoyed reading and I’m glad to share that with them,” Bryarly said. “Some kids just want to sit in front of the TV or play video games and not do anything with books. I think it is a good thing for them and it teaches them that reading can be a lot of fun and can take you to a place they’ve never been before.”