A celebration of reading

The Riverton Library celebrates childhood reading at the anniversary of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative

With help from librarian Nancy Fort, Kim Yarson leads children in song and dance at the Riverton Free Library, celebrating reading at the one year anniversary party for the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative.

Stephen Finn

The Sun

On Monday, Jan. 28, the Riverton Free Library came alive with music and dance, all in celebration of reading. Sing-along songs and dance took the place of the the usual quiet and calm one might expect at their local library for an anniversary celebration of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative.

The Burlington County Library System joined the initiative one year ago. Libraries throughout the county have been celebrating the anniversary with a party for children participating in the initiative, whether they have completed their 1,000 books or are new to the program.

The program is a nationwide initiative that encourages parents to read to children at a young age. Participants keep track of how many books they have read or have had read to them using Beanstack, a reading challenge app. Each milestone reached earns the child an online badge they can show at their local library to be featured on a wall of fame.

“For little kids it’s like practice for when you’re in school. It helps them to socialize, to sit and pay attention, and it’s always great to have books read to you so it really helps to develop that language that they need,” said Nancy Fort, librarian at the Riverton Library.

According to Fort, the library uses the initiative to encourage reading and reward children for their accomplishments.

“It’s an incentive that we started last year, and it’s a challenge for kids to read 1,000 books before kindergarten, which sounds like a lot, but actually from the kids who signed up in our branch I’ve got one that’s done 600 already and two around the 300 level, so they’re getting there,” said Fort.

When children working on reading their 1,000 books come to the library after hitting a milestone they get a sticker and their picture taken. Fort is working on putting together a wall of fame so they can be recognized for their efforts. She wants to make the library more of a welcoming place where children want to be and less like the negative stereotype of a library as a stuffy place for old people.

“I rarely shush people, never children,” said Fort.

Kim Yarson acted as a master of ceremonies for the anniversary party, leading sing-along songs about books and reading on her guitar and distributing egg shakers to each child so everyone could participate in the music-making. Everyone got up and moving for a parade around the library, winding through the bookshelves singing all the way.

Yarson is a book lover herself and wants to pass that love of reading on to children.

“I love reading. I’m always reading about 10 books at the same time. I’ve put my kids into the library system so early on that my one kid would go to bed with 15 books on his lap,” said Yarson.

More than just a pleasure activity, Yarson believes books are fundamental to our development as people.

“I think it’s important because reading makes people grow. It’s the foundation of our language and how we will learn for the rest of our lives,” said Yarson.

Local parents, grandparents and caretakers showed up to join in the fun at the library with little readers in tow. Amy Fitzmaurie is a nanny who came with 2-year-old Hailey. The two are big readers and enjoy reading stories to Hailey’s brother Ryan.

“Reading is a good foundation and it gives them a head start in preschool and kindergarten,” said Fitzmaurie. “She (Hailey) could sit with a book and read the whole thing to you.”

If you would like to get your child involved in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative, download the Beanstack app and register online at bcls.lib.nj.us/beanstack or sign up at the Riverton Free Library.