Merced County libraries challenge parents to read to children in new program
Los Banos Enterprise (Los Banos, Calif.)
Libraries in Merced County will be using a new program and approach to help improve children's literacy.
On Jan. 21, county libraries will be rolling out "1,000 Books before Kindergarten," a program that introduces books at an early age, Los Banos library manager Nola Ramirez said.
The program, started by Nevada-based nonprofit 1000 Books Foundation, challenges parents to read books aloud daily to their pre-kindergarten children until they are able to read books on their own.
Participating library branches include Atwater, Delhi, Dos Palos, Gustine, Hilmar, Le Grand, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced, Santa Nella, Snelling, Winton and the Merced County Library Bookmobile, which covers Planada, Stevinson, South Dos Palos, Cressey and Ballico in addition to Merced.
The bookmobile and Atwater and Dos Palos branches completed a pilot of the program, which started Oct. 4.
Parents can enter children into the program from birth to before the start of kindergarten. Every time a book is read, it can be registered at a library.
Each time 100 books have been read, the child will be given a spot on a library bulletin board with a star, Ramirez said. The library will track and celebrate a child's progress until 1,000 books are reached before kindergarten.
"Little kids' brains are such sponges," Ramirez said. "If you actively read to them every single day at such an early age, that gets them ready for school."
Child literacy is a point of focus for the county libraries, Ramirez said, noting that student literacy in Merced County is lagging behind the state.
According to data from the last year of the California High School Exit Exam, the 2014-15 school year, 80 percent of high school sophomore students passed the CAHSEE English exit exam compared with 85 percent for the state.
The latest results from the 2016 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress show 33 percent of fourth-graders in Merced County meeting or exceeding English language arts and literacy standards, while 44 percent of all California students met or exceeded those standards.
"We need to get literacy rates up and we can't start in high school," Ramirez said. "We need to start when they're tiny."
Library officials are hoping to hold a graduation ceremony for those children who reach the 1,000 book target, which translates to about one book per day for about three years, Ramirez said.
The Merced County Library has released a list of books for young children that is available at the branches or can be viewed at www.co.merced.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/12445.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562
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