Get your child school ready!
By Kasey Baines Photos Rebekah Alyce Photography
While most toddlers are anxiously awaiting the winter gloom to melt away and for the warm summer days to return, my son Parker savours an excuse to stay wrapped in a blanket and draw closer to reading his 5,000th book. Breaking all known records (with my help, of course), Parker is set to surpass his lofty goal by the end of the year.
Parker is participating in the international 1,000 Books Before School Program campaign, which is being promoted by local, state and national libraries. After having read 1,000 books within the first few months, Parker and I decided to just keep reading and see how many times we could complete the challenge. And so here we are, looking forward to Parker’s third birthday approaching in November and hoping to complete the program for the 5th time around.
Some people have asked how many books one would have to read on any given day to meet such high reading numbers. The answer is surprisingly easy: a mere ten to fifteen short picture books a day, about a half hour of reading, is all that it takes.
The State Library of Victoria states, “Sharing stories with babies and young children helps develop literacy skills that will prepare them for reading at school. The 1000 Books Before School program is a great way to track your child’s reading progress as you work towards building these important skills.”
It’s not surprising that Parker’s speech development has fast-tracked. Nor is it a surprise when I hear a new word come from his mouth after having just learned it from a book the evening before. But what is a surprise is how much joy we have found while participating in this reading activity together. Bed time is not a disaster of tears, kicking or screaming. It is the most calm and peaceful time of our day when we can cuddle up together as family, dim the lights and go on storybook adventures.
After pouring over tens of thousands of picture book pages, I felt many of my own story plots start to bubble away in my head. Thanks to the recommendation of a Somerville Library staff member, I enrolled in picture book writing courses with the Australian Writers’ Centre and gained the foundation necessary for beginning a new chapter in life as a children’s picture book author and illustrator. It took over 300 hours of work to complete and publish my first picture book called Flowers For Mom, which is based on the theme of kindness. The book has landed in local and national libraries as well as many school and county libraries in California. The shock of becoming a finalist for the National Business Brilliance Awards (Writing Excellence) still has not worn off several months later and the sense of pride and achievement has been so unforeseen and overwhelming that I have jumped straight into my second picture book manuscript.
As the days grow longer and the sun begins to brighten, Parker is just as excited to lay a quilted picnic blanket over the grass and dive into a book as he is to jump on a flying fox. Our family is grateful for our Mornington Peninsula libraries that have diligently urged children to increase their pre-school reading and we are equally as grateful for the unexpected effect it has had on our adult lives.
The timeless author C.S. Lewis said it best:
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
Here’s to happy readers, children and adults alike.
For further information, please visit kaseybaines.com
To register with one of the participating public libraries for the 1,000 Books Before School program go to www.slv.vic.gov.au/live-learn/1000-books-school