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Early Learning

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten | Pre-Literacy SkillsVery Ready Reading | Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity in Storytime | Early Bird Readers


Mom and baby reading
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

“The more books a child has read, the more words a child has heard, the better off they will be once they start school,” said Early Literacy Librarian Shelley Harris. “They’ll have a strong foundation for learning how to read, for learning how to learn.”

Since its November 2017 launch, close to 900 babies, toddlers, and preschoolers have signed up. As of May 1, nine families have completed the program. All are committing to the long-term goal of reading together before kindergarten begins.

The goal—for children to read 1,000 books with their families before starting kindergarten—may sound overwhelming, Harris said, but “if you read one book a night, you’ll finish in less than three years.”

For every 100 books read, kids earn one sticker to take home and one to add to a collage at the library, creating a visual measure of the community’s progress. An Oak Park Public Library card is not needed to sign up. Once a child finishes 1,000 books, they can pick out a book to take home and keep, have their photo taken, and attend a graduation party at the library. “It’s our way to celebrate their accomplishments and cheer them on,” Harris said.

Families can sign up babies, toddlers, and preschoolers for the long-term program at any library location, any time!

Tips from a parent of a 1,000 Books finisher »

Pre-literacy skills

Storytime classes help children acquire pre-literacy skills in fun, age-appropriate ways through the Very Ready Reading Program and process. This research-based program lays the foundation for future reading skills by encouraging caregivers to share books, songs, stories, words, rhymes, sounds, and play.

Storytimes schedule » Kindergarten readiness (pdf) »

Very Ready Reading

At the foundation of our early literacy programs are the research-based Very Reading Reading program. With seven simple ways to get children on the path to reading, it’s never too early to start.

Sharing books, songs, stories, words, rhymes, sounds, and play gives little ones the building blocks they need to learn how to read later. It’s why we strategically support parents, caregivers, teachers, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers—with library-based resources and expertise as well as active community partnerships.

You can build reading and words into your daily routines and conversations by sharing one of these seven building blocks every day. When children are used to hearing new words and know how stories are told, reading books won’t be so overwhelming when they start school. By using the words and stories all around us instead of flash cards, you will give your kids a better foundation to become readers when they are ready.

Diversity, inclusion & equity in storytime

Early childhood literacy includes preparing our community’s babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to arrive “ready to learn” come kindergarten. As part of her intentional work to ensure diversity, inclusion, and equity in all storytimes, Early Literacy Librarian Shelley Harris recently shared a resource she’s found impactful in her everyday storytime work and when auditing Oak Park’s early childhood titles:

Megan Dowd Lambert, children’s literature professor and author of Reading Picture Books with Children, shares specifics about using a race-conscious lens and includes tips for talking about race at storytime:

  • It’s okay to point out racial differences in picture books: “Is that skin color darker or lighter than yours? How would you describe this skin color? Or yours? Or mine?”
  • Use “fair/unfair” when talking about racial stereotypes or exclusion in picture books: “Wow, this picture book only includes white male inventors. That’s unfair. Did you know that ____ created things, too? Let’s read about some famous ____ inventors.”
  • Embrace cultural and racial differences and reinforce that “different” and “weird” aren’t the same. “Why is her hair weird?” “Her hair is different from yours. Some people have straight, curly, or wavy hair. It’s great that we’re different.”
  • Respect children’s curiosity by responding to their hard questions and sometimes embarrassing observations, or by admitting gaps in your knowledge. “Let me think about that for a while,” or “That’s a good question,” or “I don’t know” can be great replies.

Learn more at embracerace.org »

Early Bird Reader Text, Video Tips

Text, video tips

Early Bird Readers is a digital early learning program to support parents, caregivers, and teachers. It is based on the Very Ready Reading Program used in all library storytime classes.

Each week, a children’s librarian will text a tip or activity to share with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, with additional activity videos sent monthly.


View all Early Bird Readers videos on YouTube »

Weekly early learning tips from the Oak Park Public Library are sent through remind.com. Sign up with your name and cell phone number or email address; a four-digit code will be sent immediately for you to complete the process.

Join Early Bird Readers now »

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