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Kids, parents urged to read early, often

Library Director Shelley Anderson, left, and Julie Belz of the Friends of the Library Wednesday showed one of the book bags to be given participants in the Ellsworth Public Library’s new early literacy program. Twenty-eight people had already signed up as of mid-week last week for “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” which officially kicks off this Saturday with an appearance by “Clifford, the Big Red Dog.” (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)

Although it may sound ambitious, a new program at the Ellsworth Public Library can reap participants lifelong rewards.

“1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” is being billed by the library as “a fantastic adventure in reading for our littlest readers.” The effort stems from a statewide initiative to grow new readers, according to Library Director Shelley Anderson.

“The idea is getting parents to read to their children,” Anderson said Wednesday.

The target audience for this early literacy outreach is children from birth through the start of kindergarten (five-years-old), she said. For the smallest babies, it may not necessarily involve actual reading, but just holding books and becoming comfortable with them. Board books for touching, feeling and chewing on are available to the very youngest kids, she reminded.

Julie Belz of the Friends of the Library said 28 people had already signed up for the program as of the middle of last week. The official kick-off is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, when “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” will visit the local library.

Clifford and the Dr. Seuss series are examples of the kinds of books kids at the targeted age and their parents would read, the director said. There’s really quite a range of books appropriate for them at the library.

As they start, participants will be given book bags inscribed with the program’s name and containing information about it, she said. Included will be a sheet featuring 10 flowers with nine petals and a center, one of which the participating child is to color each time he or she has completed a book. On display inside the library will also be a caterpillar that will “grow” to indicate the progress being made by the young readers.

“Every time a child reads 100 books, they’ll get a book to keep,” Anderson said about a gift from the library, referring to the milestone reached when a sheet is fully colored. They can list their 10 favorite books on the sheet, too, if they wish.

When children reach the 1,000 books level, a t-shirt and certificate will be presented to them, Belz said, plus their photos will be placed in a library album. The program is open-ended, so kids will be able to begin well into the future, as long as they finish by age five.

For more please read the Jan. 29 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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