If you’re looking for a fun way to get your young child interested in reading, try the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. The concept is simple: track how many books you read to or with your little one and celebrate when you close that 1,000th cover. The free program is designed to encourage a love of reading, establish literacy skills and habits at a young age, and give children a sense of accomplishment—all before they reach kindergarten.
If 1,000 books seems too ambitious, think about it like this: if you read just one book to your baby every day, by the time he or she turns one, you’ll have read 365 books. If you maintain that streak, your child will have completed the program by the time that third birthday rolls around. Since most children start kindergarten at the age of five, you’ll have accomplished something great together—two years ahead of schedule.
Another reason to give the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program a try: studies show that young children who are exposed to early language and literacy experiences go on to become strong readers later in life. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading, compared to children who are read to less than three times a week.
How to Participate
The program is free and you can participate in a variety of ways. You can download a reading tracker app like Goodreads or the official 1000 Books Before Kindergarten app. Try keeping track of your child’s reading with a notebook or paper reading log. You can meticulously note each title or just tally up the books as you go. Or you can use sticker charts, paper chains, children’s calendars, and more—anything that works for your family.
You don’t have to read 1,000 *different* books, either. The program is all about promoting a love of reading. If your child wants to read How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? five times a night, every night, for three weeks, then break out 105 stickers for your chart. It all counts.
Hundreds of public library systems all across America participate in the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, too. To find out if your local branch participates, you can check the official website here or ask your librarian. Your library may offer their own reading tracker—and some offer special certificates or prizes for your child upon completion.
Where to Start
If you’re not sure where to start, the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten website offers free printable reading logs, milestone reading signs, and a certificate of completion. You can also find recommendations for books to check out with your little one, too.
Customize the program however you’d like. Read the books that bring your child joy, even if it’s the same one every night. The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program is a free, fun way to bond with your child and develop their literacy skills at a young age.
Looking for new books to read with your child? Try The Best Children’s Books for Every Age or 11 Laugh Out Loud Funny Picture Books Perfect for Reading Aloud.