A new program challenging children to read 1000 books with their parents before they start school aims to foster a love of reading and develop essential literacy skills.
The 1000 Books Before School program, which is part of a State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria Network initiative, launched at Ballarat Library on Wednesday with the help of mayor Samantha McIntosh and councillor Belinda Coates.
The free program encourages regular reading by providing a framework for families to follow and incentives such as reading charts and stickers.
Cr McIntosh said it was “imperative” for children to start reading early in life.
“We know if kids don’t develop their language skills before they go to school, it is much harder for them to develop,” she said. “And generally, those who are a little bit behind before they go to school will be a little bit behind throughout their learning.”
Cr McIntosh said reading expanded children’s vocabularies, increased their cognitive skills and ensured they were school ready, which instilled greater confidence and in turn generated more excitement among children.
While 1000 books sounded daunting, Cr McIntosh said this was achievable.
“If you break it down to little five minutes reads or two or three books a day, even if it is only one book a day, it is not such a tough feat,” she said. “But it is something very important.”
While Cr McIntosh acknowledged children’s love of technology may compete with books, she said it was not necessarily a hindrance.
“Technology can be a distraction, but it can also be a great help,” she said. “There is the opportunity to have digital books and it is another way for children to learn to read and develop literary skills.
“I think the key is, whether it be online or sitting in a library with a book, to have parents sitting with the kids and sharing that experience.”
Cr Coates said reading at an early age was the best way to improve long-term school results for children.
“We know that introducing children to books early has a lot of benefits – social benefits, bonding benefits, but it also stimulates creativity and provides those terrific building blocks to literacy,” she said.
Cr McIntosh said library programs, such as 1000 Books Before School, were essential to developing and growing the community.
“Whether it be for young people or older people, it is an absolute must,” she said. “Libraries provide an array of facilities, knowledge and information that we can share with our whole community.”
For more program information visit a City of Ballarat library or call 5338 6850.