Levon Wilson, Connor Ruuhela, Ava Van Eps and Dylan Frederick celebrate reading 1,000 books before kindergarten.

Teaching the lifelong skill of reading

“1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program sees four young graduates

Around 20 parents, babies, wobbling toddlers and young children gathered to read children’s books at Ophir Community Library partly in celebration of 5-year-old Levon Wilson, Ava Van Eps– who will be 5 years old in June, 3-year-old Connor Ruuhela, and 5-year-old Dylan Frederick. All four children have read 1,000 books with their parents as part of the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program with the library. 

Reading stories with kids isn’t just a way to snuggle and connect. According to teachreadingearly.com, children learn at a much faster pace the first six years of their lives. There are neurological, educational, psychological, social and linguistic advantages of exposing children to reading and books early. 

Babies are born with 100 billion neurons, almost the same number as stars in the Milky Way, according to Patricia Kuhl, M.D. with the University of Washington Seattle Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. Her research has revealed that babies begin learning language from their mothers a full 10 weeks before being born. 

“Babies suck in new information and statistically analyze it, comparing it with what they've previously heard, seen, tasted and felt, constantly revising their theories of the world and how it works,” a Pacific Northwest magazine article claimed. "The brain prepares itself to learn things at a certain time," Kuhl said. "Communication and social relations are early, because in order to maneuver in the world, to survive as a hominid, you had to relate to the other hominids." 

According to his mother Michelle, Dylan Frederick loves reading and writing letters. He said he likes that he learned how to make a mud pie in a book he recently read. The 1,000th book he read – and the first book he read on his own – was titled, “How to Make a Mud Pie,” Michelle explained. 

From “Ping Pong Piggy” to “50 States” to “Curious George Goes Camping” and “Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site,” the children were able to choose their favorite books to be read at the celebration. 

They learned about a two-headed cow at a museum in Colorado in the book about the states. 

“What would you do if you saw a two-headed cow? Would you try to pet both of the heads or would you walk away?” Librarian Amy Hunter asked the children. 

“Walk away!” one of the kids yelled. 

Connor Ruuhela, the youngest child to read so many books with his parents becomes completely engrossed when a story is being read to him, Hunter said. 

“I think the coolest thing is we read him books all the time. Now, after reading more books, I find him reading books on his own – with nobody around,” his father, Matt Ruuhela said, saying while Connor can’t actually read yet, he’s learning to how to hold and appreciate a book – he’s learning the habit of reading. 

It was a festive party. One mother made cupcakes, the children had balloons and the four children who read 1,000 books were rewarded with gifts: each was given a book to enjoy. 

Domi Domingas Palmer credited Librarian Amy Hunter with keeping the kids engaged during story time.

“She is the best. After every story time, she has a little treat for the kids. It’s very encouraging for the children to read,” she said, also saying many of the kids were excited that they would receive presents if they were to read 1,000 books.

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