By Chuck Fieldman
Kristina and Matthew Bailey began reading books to their son, Owen when he was six months old— they haven’t stopped.
Owen turned 4 in June and recently received an award from the Clarendon Hills Public Library for having had 1,000 books read to him before starting kindergarten.
The library’s 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge is one of a few reading challenge programs offered in Clarendon Hills, where the Bailey family has lived for the past 2 1/2 years.
Kristin Bailey said she saw an ad about the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge and decided it was a good fit for Owen.
“He’s always been really into books,” Bailey said. “He had a natural interest in books at nine months old. That’s when COVID started, and he didn’t get out much, so reading books to him worked out very well. He’s a naturally curious kid, and imagination-building is important. The reading allows him to learn and explore new things, and he really wants to learn to read now.”
Krista Devlin, the Clarendon Hills library’s youth services librarian, said there’s a specific reason The Friends of the Library-sponsored 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge was started in 2022.
“Reading aloud to a child is one of the best ways to help develop important early literacy skills, which will prepare them for kindergarten,” Devlin said. “It is also a great way to bond with your child and to encourage a love of reading.”
Devlin said Owen was the second child to reach the challenge of having 1,000 books read to him before starting kindergarten. He was awarded a certificate, a crown, and his picture was taken to recognize his accomplishment.
Bailey, who said she is “a big reader,” said her family usually goes to the library once a week. Reading three books each night to Owen, along with a book before nap time, is the household normal.
“Consistency in our routine has been good and is important,” she said, adding that Owen’s two sisters, ages 2 1/2 and 1 1/2, also have books read to them, albeit not the same quantity as their big brother.
“He loves anything to do with trains and trucks,” Bailey said.
Owen confirmed that and added that he also likes some other books, such as “Curious George.”
“I like the pictures,” he said.
Owen also likes having the same books read to him multiple times, his mother said.
“He gets stuck on some books that he really likes and loves hearing them several times,” Bailey said. “We read ‘Goodnight Moon’ every night.”
Devlin said other parents interested in having their children participate in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge may stop by the Youth Services desk at the library to register and pick up a reading challenge activity book.
Families can visit the Beanstack app or website to start logging the books read, Devlin said. “The activity book works hand-in-hand with the Beanstack software and is full of fun things, like stickers for every ten books read, book-related activities, and book recommendations,” she said. ■