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St. Joseph County Public Library launches early literacy program

NOW: St. Joseph County Public Library launches early literacy program

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – An early literacy program that began this month at the St. Joseph County Public Library wants parents and children to read 1,000 books together before kids head off to kindergarten.

Librarians say the initiative will prepare children for school.

“1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” is a nationwide program that encourages parents to read 1,000 books to their child before they head off for that first year of school.

Theresa Horn is the manager of youth services at the SJCPL. She said kids develop the pre-reading skills needed for school when they read several times a week. She explained children are more likely to recognize letters, develop word-sight recognition, and understand a word’s meaning.

“You need to start the moment they’re born reading to them,” said Horn. “We really believe strongly that parents are a child’s first teacher. This program is just designed to kind of help them be accountable, keep track, and have some goals so that by the time their children get to kindergarten, they’re ready to read.”

Horn added the program creates a strong parent-child bond that can positively impact the whole family. She said when kids see a parent show excitement about reading, children pick up on it.

“If they don’t have that kind of early on, when they get to reading in school and it’s hard or maybe it’s something that they’re not familiar with or comfortable with, then it kind of maybe turns them off a bit,” said Horn.

The program is free and parents can sign up at an SJCPL branch. Families can read any books they want, as many times they want at their own pace.

“As long as there’s an adult, a child, and a book, you basically got that program,” said Horn.


Ben Barwick is a dad to a two-year-old girl and six-month-old girl. He and his wife read to both daughters before bed each night.

“My wife and I’s lifestyles are very story and book oriented,” said Barwick. “We read so we want to pass that along to them.”

Barwick believes both girls will read 1,000 books before their first year of schools. He said his oldest daughter already shows a love of reading and often tries to read during story time. Barwick thinks this initiative will better prepare other kids for school and foster their love of reading.

“It gives them a jumpstart in learning but also it kind of creates a bond,” said Barwick. “In our experience with Mae … she reads to us as well and I mean she spends at least an hour a day just reading books by herself so it’s important for her because it seems to fit her personality.”

Librarians say if parents read one book a night starting the day their child is born, they can read 1,000 books in less than three years.

To sign up for the program, click here.

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