Libraries are useful resources to people of all ages, and the Newton Public Library (720 N. Oak) is getting ready to add to its services with a new initiative taking aim at helping some of the youngest members of the community.
In an effort to promote early childhood literacy, the NPL is launching its 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, with enrollment starting on Thursday. The program is part of a nationwide effort that many libraries have taken part in for some time, though librarian Amy Bayes noted this is the first year it is being offered in Newton.
The program is a call to action for parents and caregivers to read to children from birth in an effort to prepare them for school. If one book is read per night, the goal of 1,000 books can be reached in three years and foster early literacy skills to prepare young minds for kindergarten-level reading.
"According to statistics...when they start being read to at a young age, it helps prepare them more for reading. It helps them with language concepts," Bayes said. "It's just a win-win situation."
Open to all families with children ranging from newborn to 5 years old, the free NPL program (with support from the Bessmer Foundation) will offer a book bag with information, coloring pages, reading activities and a reading chart upon registration. At each level of 100 books read, free stickers will be given out and each child completing 1,000 books will receive a free T-shirt and a photo on the library's Wall of Fame.
Registration was set to officially begin Friday, but Bayes noted she put out sign-up information on Wednesday and already had four families enrolled by Thursday morning. While the benefits of the program (developing both literacy and vocabulary skills) have been shown through research, Bayes admitted she is most excited to offer it in Newton because of the relationship-building it promotes.
"Personally, I like not only just the educational part, but the part of children and their families being together," Bayes said. "I think that's a good thing. I did that with my kids when they were little."
Bayes said the plan is to advertise the program during Fall StoryTimes (beginning Sept. 11) at the library to double down on the literacy efforts. While no specific participation goals have been set, she is happy to be adding this program for local families.
"We're real excited to have it," Bayes said. "We hope to have a lot of people come in and take advantage of it, join us for story time and help us to teach children the love of stories or love of books."
For more information, contact the Newton Public Library at 283-2890.