In June of 2013, as part of our SLP registration, we started our "1000 Books Before Kindergarten" program. To get to the point where we had it ready for parents and children to participate, we did the following:
1. Researched the philosophy behind and the benefits of "1000 Books".
2. Looked at what other libraries across the state and the country were doing with it and the different procedures they were using to organize and monitor it.
3. Presented information about it to our library board and obtained unanimous approval to start the program. I wanted library board approval due to both the long term commitment and the financial commitment we would need to ensure its success.
4. Decided on a format: yellow portfolios with prong fasteners, which would include an explanation; literacy information from both ALA and Reading Rockets; and a reading log for 1000 titles, along with a strip of stickers in the front pocket of the portfolio. Ordered the portfolios and made photocopies. Assembled the first 50 packets.
5. Placed a request for the design and printing of a t-shirt transfer and a sticker for the portifolios with the PR person at our library system. The design was to be cheerful and colorful depicting children and books without having to worry about a copyright infringement.
6. Purchased white t-shirts; plastic "Bee a Reader" book bags and various stickers with book and reading themes.
7. Publicized "1000 Books" with fliers and posters; newspaper articles; the library's website and later when it was created, the library's Facebook page.
8. Put together a schedule of incentives for reaching different levels of the program, such as 100 books, 500 books, etc.
9. Ordered a small selection of board books and paperback picture book titles to use as awards. Devised sticky labels for the cover of each book indicating that it was presented to the child because of his/her accomplishments in our "1000 Books" program.
10. A few days after we started our "1000 Books" program, I learned about an early literacy mini-grant from the Department of Public Instruction, which could be used to enhance our program. I completed the grant application and months later, received notice that we would be awarded one of the grants.
11. I ordered more books and promotional items.
12. After the program started, we contacted our library system and requested the design and printing of certificates of achievement for the children who finished the program and a triple fold brochure to help with the future promotion of "1000 Books".
13. During the summer, I believe we registered 22 children for our "1000 Books" program. When school started in the fall, I sent letters of explanation and invitation to the parents of the local early childhood students; the parents of the students in four-year-old kindergarten; and the parents of students at the local preschool. I also tried to locate home-based child care providers to let them know about the program. I also "talked it up" with the parents of the children who attended our toddler and preschool story times and with individual parents as I saw them in the library. As of February 25, we now have 87 children registered. My goal is 100 children.
14. My question after rereading the above: when does this program become passive? I've put a lot of time and energy into it!
15. The answer: once the child is registered. At that point, when a parent or child gives us the reading log, we hand them the next prize...or a selection of books from which the child can choose the one he or she wants. We also offer lots of congratulations on a job well done!
What are the advantages for this type if programming? Once it's set up and organized, staff time is minimal. Some maintenance has to be on going: making sure there is an inventory of awards and continuing to promote the program will be necessary. There could be an increase in circulation of children's books and perhaps, an increase in toddler and preschool story time attendance. Good PR for the library will be another advantage, along with strengthening the relationship between the library; local schools; and local child care providers, both center based and home based. Increased knowledge of the library and the services it provides will benefit everyone.
What are the disadvantages when doing this type of programming? In the case of a multi year program like "1000 Books", there needs to be a financial commitment so that children reaching "1000 Books" four years from now will receive the same recognition as those completing the program in 18 months. There needs to be a time commitment made by the library that the staff will have the time necessary to actively promote the program, which could include annual letters to parents and visits to schools. Individual staff members will need to understand the importance of early literacy and feel comfortable in inviting parents and children to participate. While that is not necessarily a disadvantage, it can be with staff not having the same beliefs as the department head or director. Everyone needs to be on board!
Luci Bledsoe, Johnson Creek (WI) Public Library