OSKALOOSA — Oskaloosa Public Library is taking on a program tailored to encourage early childhood reading and comprehension skills to help kids get the skills they need to succeed in school.

Studies have shown a mighty correlation between early childhood reading and higher language skills in adulthood. Forming literacy when the brain is still in development helps to prime the brain by establishing a framework for the acquisition of all manner of skills. This program ultimately helps get the ball rolling and increase the probability of future successes in children.

It's aimed at kids up to age 5. You just pick a book and sit down and read to your kid. There are lists of suitable books for youngsters available online and elsewhere, and there are plenty of books available for toddlers. Cloth picture books may seem silly, but they not only help kids learn letters and numbers, but they help to set up manual dexterity, which is pretty important.

The program, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, started with a nonprofit public charity called 1,000 Books Foundation. It was originally based out of Nevada in 2013 but since then has spread all over the country. Oskaloosa Public library got it started in September. “We got it to our patrons and now we're just trying to get the word out,” said Nicole Morgan, Oskaloosa Public Library director. The Friends of Oskaloosa Public Library has donated a significant sum to help make sure the project happens in Oskaloosa this year. Now there's some incentive: Once a kid reaches 1,000 books, he or she is going to receive a free book and a special certificate.

The program is essentially all about shaping language skills, creating and encouraging it. There are often puzzle books involved in the program too, which help kids learn colors and shapes and associate figures or faces with symbols and names. Reading to kids is also a great way to facilitate bonding time. Morgan says you don't necessarily have to read a thousand individual books. If a kid really enjoys a specific book, then indulging them with their favorite material can actually be what it takes to get them reading along. There's not a rigid rulebook. "Each library kind of does their own thing," said Morgan, “so there's no set necessary program that you have to follow.”

Being exposed to the kinetic awareness aspect of reading physical books can even help kids develop fine motor skills and a basis for evaluative reasoning. “It helps expand their imagination. Even just learning to hold the book and turn the pages,” Morgan pointed out, can be a valuable lesson for kids in that age group.

“It also promotes bonding between the parent and child,” Morgan said, “and promotes a love of reading.”

Herald staff writer Luke VanDerPol can be reached at lukevan@oskyherald.com

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