Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. This is your host Lauren Martino. And I'm here with my co-host.
Julie Dina: Julie Dina.
Lauren Martino: And today we are talking about a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, this is a really exciting new program that we're doing here at MCPL. I'm here with Christine Freeman, who is our Early Literacy and Children's Services manager and also manages the Noyes Library for Young Children.
Christine Freeman: Hey Lauren.
Lauren Martino: And we also have Olivia Darrell, who is our selector for children's fiction.
Glad to have you Olivia.
Olivia Darrell: Thanks Lauren.
Lauren Martino: So tell us a little bit, Christine, about how you got interested in early literacy and children's fiction?
Christine Freeman: Okay. Well, originally when I started as a librarian I was an adult reference librarian, which was interesting. But I realized that children are a lot more fun than adults.
Lauren Martino: I'm right there with you. I got you on that.
Christine Freeman: And once I started doing story times I was hooked, and there was no going back. So I'm a children's person from here forward.
Lauren Martino: You're a children's convert.
Christine Freeman: Yes, a children's convert.
Lauren Martino: Can you tell us a little bit about this new program, what's 1000 Books Before Kindergarten all about?
Christine Freeman: So 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide program. The sole purpose of the program is to promote reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers, and to encourage parent and child bonding through reading. And that's what the library is all about. We want to create family engagement opportunities for parents, and that's what this program will do.
Julie Dina: Olivia, can you tell us exactly when the kickoff is for this program?
Olivia Darrell: Sure. Families can begin signing up for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten at any of our MCPL branches on Saturday, March 24th.
Lauren Martino: So, Olivia, I hear you get to buy children's books all day. That sounds like an amazing job. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Olivia Darrell: It is an amazing job. I started out as a children's librarian in the branches which I loved. And I got to do story time. But now I get to sit in an office and buy books for kids. And I get to read reviews and find the best ones and make sure that we're spending the county's money responsibly.
Lauren Martino: So you get to immerse yourself in like Horn Book all day and …
Olivia Darrell: Yeah, Horn Books, School Library Journal, all of those.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any good children's book podcasts to recommend? Do you listen to any of those or is that not your thing?
Olivia Darrell: I don't. I read a lot of the blogs, but I don't get into many of the - I do listen to podcasts but not about children's literature.
Julie Dina: Christine, I really like the sound of this whole program that we're all talking about. And it really is an innovative way to get children geared toward reading before they actually begin kindergarten. Could you tell us whose idea this was or who actually started it?
Christine Freeman: So this program is a nationwide program. It was originally started in Las Vegas, Nevada through a private charitable donation. It currently has other sponsors. Basically, like I said, their whole goal is just to get parents and kids reading. And across the country people do various formats for the program. Some use logs, some use online programs to log, so it's different across the country.
Lauren Martino: Who can participate in this program? I've got a four-year-old, and you were talking about a 1,000 books. And she's four. Is this like really something you have to start at age - at birth or can any kid participate?
Olivia Darrell: Any child can participate starting at birth, like you said, but certainly your four-year-old can participate as well. Anyone who hasn't yet begun kindergarten can participate in this program.
Christine Freeman: And we have some really easy ways to help your child complete. We have something called Early Literacy Moments. And what that means is any time you have an early literacy moment, such as you're singing the ABCs, or you're looking at shapes when you're taking a walk or if you are singing a song or fingerplay, each one of those counts as a book. So those add up really quickly if you think about one day spent with your child, those early literacy moments really add up and that will help you complete summer reading a 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.
Julie Dina: Well, I'm pretty sure a lot of parents want to know what options do they actually have for recording their children's progress. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Christine Freeman: It's going to be really easy. All of our branches will be ready and waiting when parents want to go to sign up their children. You can go to any information desk and our staff will be happy and excited to sign your children up using Beanstack, and they will give them a paper log. The paper log is so simple, every time a child has a book read to them they can color in a little shell, which you know they're going to love. When they finish coloring a hundred shells they take it back to the library and they get something fun.
Julie Dina: Christine, you just mentioned Beanstack, can you, especially for those who are not aware of what that is, can you tell us exactly what that means?
Christine Freeman: Sure, Julie. Beanstack is an online portal. It is super easy to use. You can create an account and then sign up for all of our reading programs. If you are a parent it's really easy because you can make one user account and then have all your readers on your account, so that means only one login and one password. And if you need help signing up for an account you can go to any of our information staff and they'll be happy to assist you with that. The best thing about Beanstack is it gives you personalized reading lists and suggestions for books, it is fantastic. They will send you emails of suggestions, and if you choose you can go to the library and ask the librarian to get them for you.
Lauren Martino: You can also do the reading challenge that way, can't you, if you're an adult and feel so inclined?
Christine Freeman: Yes, any of our reading programs that we have, which include summer reading for little ones, elementary and teens, and then a reading challenge for adults as well, and a thousand books.
Lauren Martino: So, I hear you can win prizes doing this for your children. How does that work?
Olivia Darrell: Of course we have prizes. Every time you read a hundred books and bring in your finished log the child will get a sticker, and then after reading 500 books they'll get a magnet frame. And after completing a thousand they'll get a new backpack to load up with even more books. And just imagine how impressed your child's kindergarten teacher will be when they can tell them that they have already read 1,000 books.
Christine Freeman: And what you want to say is this is a great opportunity to build self-esteem with your children. Every time they complete a log and you celebrate that that encourages them to keep on reading. And that's how we're going to build lifelong reading for our young children.
Lauren Martino: And the librarians will be celebrating that too, right?
Christine Freeman: The librarians will be celebrating that too. I can tell you I think staff will be really excited when the kids come in with their smiling faces and their logs all filled out, and they will be excited and happy to celebrate with them.
Lauren Martino: We are all about celebrating their reading.
Julie Dina: I would like to go back to Beanstack though. So for parents who say, "I signed up for a summer read and learn last summer, do I have to create another account in Beanstack?" What exactly do we tell them?
Olivia Darrell: No, they do not have to create another account. They just simply sign-in to their established account with Beanstack, click on Register for this Program under 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, and they will earn their first badge and get started reading.
Lauren Martino: So what if they've forgotten their password?
Christine Freeman: If they've forgotten their password they can go to the information desk and ask any of our staff and they will be happy to assist them.
Julie Dina: That's really great. Because it seems like it always boils down to going to our friendly librarians at the desk.
Olivia Darrell: Absolutely.
Christine Freeman: And it's going to be easy, it's going to be fun. The kids are going to love it. And don't forget that children, of course they want you to read the book over and over and over. And every time you read it, it counts. So if you ready that same book 20 times, that's 20 shells your child gets to color in.
Lauren Martino: So if I read - okay, we have this big huge, like little golden collection of like every Star Wars enshrined in picture book - in a little golden picture book. So every time I read an episode does it count or do I have to read the entire, like, seven-book omnibus?
Christine Freeman: I think we're going to leave that up to the parents to decide. I think that's flexible. And if they're reading to their children that's what we're looking for.
Lauren Martino: Okay, so flexible and fun, and whatever you want to make of it.
Christine Freeman: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: So we're hearing so much about reading a 1000 books before kindergarten. What exactly is this program supposed to accomplish?
Christine Freeman: We know that children who are read to on a regular basis have larger vocabularies and it makes them more ready for kindergarten, right. They learn patience, they sit while they're read to. And also, like I said earlier, it's just a form of family engagement that we really want to encourage.
Lauren Martino: So all of this seems geared around introducing five-year-olds and younger to reading. Can you tell us a little bit about why it's so important to read to five-year-olds and younger? I mean, when exactly do you start reading to children?
Olivia Darrell: The day they're born you can start reading to them. There are so many reasons that it's important to be reading to young children. We want to associate reading with positive experiences. They will be able to develop language and literacy skills. They'll be able to recognize reading rules and patterns such as text going from left to right and top to bottom. And ultimately, we want kids to be prepared to learn to read when they enter kindergarten, which will lead to greater success in school.
Christine Freeman: And we know that babies love to hear the sound of their parents or caregiver's voice. So every time they're read to it's comforting to them. And as they grow older they will associate words with pictures and sounds, and that's how we create readers.
Olivia Darrell: Christine mentioned vocabulary. When a child is learning to read once they're in elementary school they can't read a word unless they've heard a word before. So, even those picture books that have really big vocabulary words are great for young children because we want them to be exposed to as many words as possible.
Christine Freeman: And you get words in picture books that you don't get, like, walking on the street.
Olivia Darrell: Absolutely, yes.
Lauren Martino: They do.
Christine Freeman: This morning I did story time and we had trestles.
Lauren Martino: Trestles? Oh, let me guess, Freight Train.
Olivia Darrell: Yes.
Christine Freeman: I told them that's our vocabulary word for the day, and we defined what a trestle was.
Julie Dina: Well, we do know what the word for this show is, a 1000. And I can tell you, especially since I'm with the outreach department, we're all excited. We've been promoting this program everywhere we go. However, I do get a lot of people asking me questions such as, "A 1000 books. How am I supposed to break this down day by day? Could you suggest tips and tricks on how I can make this journey fun and exciting for the kids?" And the parent says - well, so what can you guys tell us?
Olivia Darrell: Well, I will agree with you that when I first heard that number 1,000, I thought it sounded like a lot. But if you break it down, like you said, it becomes less intimidating. If you read just one book a day to your child you'll be done in less than three years. Reading two books a day will get you there in a little over a year. And if you've got a four-year-old, like Lauren, she can read three books a day to her daughter and she'll be done in less than one year. As for tips, first make sure the books that you're reading to your child are books that are fun for them on topics that interest them. Let them pick out the books. Read books in other languages if you can do so, and let them touch the books and help turn the pages. Also remember that kids do what they see us doing, so make sure that they see you reading for pleasure as well.
Lauren Martino: I like that one.
Christine Freeman: And don't forget, if you really want to accelerate your logging you can go to any of our branches, we have story times, and our story times, not only are they reading books, but they're doing early literacy moments. They're singing; they're doing finger plays. And every time they do one of those it counts. So your librarians will be telling you at each story time if they've completed 10 books or 15 books because they're counting early literacy moments as well.
Lauren Martino: So do you have any good recommendations for books for small children? Especially when you're going out a lot of times it's not always easy to find picture books that include various cultures, various people with different abilities. Do you have any favorites that you'd like to talk to us about?
Christine Freeman: Yeah, there are so many to choose from. And I have to give Olivia credit here; she finds some fabulous books for us. Some of my favorites recently are Thunder Boy Jr.; I have a junior in my house.
Lauren Martino: Yay!
Christine Freeman: So, I liked that he didn't want that name but he loved that name at the end. I Got the Rhythm, and I love that one because it has fabulous pictures and it has movement.
Olivia Darrell: Yes.
Christine Freeman: I like a lot of movement when I'm doing picture books with children. And Families, Families, Families! That one is so important because families can be any variation. And I love how that shows a variety of families.
Olivia Darrell: I love the ones that Christine suggested. And being the buyer of the picture books I came prepared with a long list, so here we go. The first one that I really love is Ada Twist, Scientist because it …
Lauren Martino: Yay!
Olivia Darrell: Includes not only diversity, inclusiveness, but also STEM, which is a big thing that we're pushing now as well.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: And Stinky Socks.
Olivia Darrell: Yes, of course. You can't go wrong there. Fairly new one to branches is Jabari Jumps, which is a really fun story of a boy who goes to the local pool and has decided that he's going to be brave and jump off the diving board, and then he's not so sure. So you have to read it to find out what happens at the end. A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is nice because it's not only got different cultures but it also has - it's intergenerational. So we have a young girl and her neighbor who is much older. And it's about their friendship. Another fun one is The Quickest Kid in Clarksville. If you've got a child who might be four or five, almost ready for kindergarten, you want to get them started with beginning readers, Get a Hit, Mo! and the other Mo titles by Adler are fun. We have some board books from DK that include Braille. Another board book is My Heart Fills With Happiness, which includes American Indians.
Lauren Martino: Oh yes.
Olivia Darrell: Malaika's Costume has a character from the Caribbean. And her mom immigrates to Canada, and so we see that experience of how it's hard to be away from mom. Looking for Bongo, by Velasquez is a fun one. It's an Afro-Latino character who's looking for his stuffed toy.
Christine Freeman: I really liked that one. It has nice pictures too.
Olivia Darrell: It does. We Sang You Home is another board book. In Plain Sight is by Jackson, but it's by …
Lauren Martino: Oh, I love that one.
Olivia Darrell: The illustrations by Jerry Pinkney, you can't go wrong with him.
Lauren Martino: That's one my child required numerous times.
Olivia Darrell: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: We've read that a lot of times.
Olivia Darrell: Yes. Again, intergenerational and your - like the seek-and-find element is fun.
Lauren Martino: It's not easy.
Olivia Darrell: Yeah, it's not.
Lauren Martino: It's like you look at those it's like you are going to need some grownup help to find.
Olivia Darrell: Right, yes.
Lauren Martino: Gosh, and it's so - like the pictures. Like this is a - just the details that were painted …
Olivia Darrell: Yeah, lots of detail.
Lauren Martino: It's like this is a real family that you took and just plucked out of reality. And you've got all the richness of their life.
Olivia Darrell: Absolutely.
Lauren Martino: Sorry, anyway.
Olivia Darrell: That's okay, I know.
Lauren Martino: I love that book.
Olivia Darrell: I'm glad.
Julie Dina: We believe you.
Olivia Darrell: I also really like Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion, which is a Little Red Riding Hood story set in Africa. Marta! Big & Small, which is an opposites book. And First Snow, by Park, which is about a little Korean girl. And finally the Lola character and her brother Leo by McQuinn, one of the recent ones is Lola Plants a Garden, those are really nice as well.
Lauren Martino: taking over my library level display right now.
Olivia Darrell: Really wonderful.
Lauren Martino: It's like you go Lola loves baby time, Lola loves the library.
Olivia Darrell: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Lola - yeah, there's just so many library-themed. I mean they're all wonderful.
Olivia Darrell: They are, yeah. And of course ask your librarian because they have favorites too, and they'll be able to suggest even more.
Lauren Martino: And now a brief message about MCPL's services and resources.
Febe Huezo: Looking for an adventure for your preschooler or kindergartner? They can explore a world of animals, outer space, music, and more while learning their ABCs and 123s. All this is possible with our online resource, BookFlix. BookFlix is filled with videos of classic stories like Where the Wild Things Are, and Giggle, Giggle, Quack. Each video story includes read-along captions and is paired with a related nonfiction book. For more information about BookFlix check out the link in this episode's show notes.]
Lauren Martino: Now, back to our program.
Lauren Martino: So, say I'm having a really super busy day and there is no time to read to my child. We are just not going to have five minutes at home. Do you have any tips for getting these early literacy moments, like in the line for the laundromat or in the car or just doing these everyday things that you have to do anyway just so that you can make progress on these horrible busy days.
Olivia Darrell: Sure. Yeah, when you're in the car you can be pointing out letters that you see on the signs. You can be singing the Wheels On The Bus, when they're on the changing table you can be doing This Little Piggy, or singing other songs with them. There are lots of ways. I'm sure Christine can give you even more.
Christine Freeman: Yeah, I grew up with a mom who always sang in the car. And those songs that she sang to me in the car I now do at story time.
Lauren Martino: Yay!
Christine Freeman: Yeah, so those are ones you remember, right. And I think other things, if you're busy cooking pull out pots and pans, have your kids banging on them and sing along with them; make it fun. Those are early literacy moments right there. They're going to be musically inclined when they grow up. If you're out taking a walk look out - point out signs, you can point out shapes, you can point out colors, you can count anything that helps them learn is considered early literacy moment.
Lauren Martino: It's amazing how entertaining street signs can be in the right circumstances.
Olivia Darrell: Yeah, colors, shapes, letters, there are so many things.
Christine Freeman: And kids are like little sponges, you know. I mean, you can talk to them. And I know my grandson; whenever I talk to him he has like five questions for everything I say. So you say something and he's like, "Why? How? When?" And that's how they learn - that's how children learn is that by - they ask you questions and you can point things out and explain to them what you're talking about.
Lauren Martino: So you just be prepared for every question to lead to five more.
Christine Freeman: Yes.
Olivia Darrell: And the more you talk to them the better. The more - again, the more they hear it just helps them with that eventual being able to learn to read.
Christine Freeman: And that really goes back to Every Child Ready to Read, which is what we base our story times on. I'm reading, talking, playing, writing, singing; that is how children learn. And that's how we want children to learn, by interacting and being involved.
Julie Dina: How can MCPL's resources help parents meet the 1,000 book challenge?
Christine Freeman: So we have books in various formats. We have print books, lots as you know, in our libraries.
Julia Dina: Lots and lots.
Christine Freeman: But we also have eBooks. We have something called BookFlix and something called TumbleBooks, and they're fabulous. You can have your kids look at them on the iPad and you can interact with them. They have words to scroll on the bottom. Some of them are interactive and they have little games you can play afterwards. And some of them are animated, like there's a George one that is animated, it's lots of fun. My grandson loves that, and he will like watch it and read it over and over and over again. Really though, I think our best resource are our librarians. You can go to our information desks, our librarians, that's what we do. We're happy to help you. We love to tell you our favorite books, walk you through the shelves, and help you find books that you can take home. And remember, the more books you take home, you can take out a hundred books, so don't hesitate.
Lauren Martino: And you know there's always going to be the couple that gets rejected so you may as well.
Christine Freeman: Exactly. And that's what I tell people too; take more because you can always set that one aside if you don't like it. And even little kids, they may not have a book that they like, that's fine. Set it aside, pick out the one they do like and read it over and over and over again.
Lauren Martino: You brought up something interesting. And we actually have been talking about this at home a lot. So you bring up electronic resources to help with early literacy. Do you think any, like, educational software or app or anything would count as a moment, or do you think there's special criteria, like what makes TumbleBooks a literacy moment versus we're sitting them in front of the TV?
Christine Freeman: Well, TumbleBooks is actually a book, it's an electronic book. So it's more of a book in the early literacy moment. But I think how to engage with children with screen time is we just want to be interactive with them, rather than give a child a device and set them aside, we want to have them on our laps and be reading it with them, just as we would with the book.
Lauren Martino: So really it's like the parent interaction that makes it a moment more than -
Christine Freeman: I think so. I mean, if you're looking at - like our AWE tablet, say, in our branches and you want to check out one of our AWE tablets and you're standing there playing games with your child, I think that's an early literacy moment, you're learning. They're learning about ABCs or maybe they're learning about colors and shapes. And those count as well.
Lauren Martino: But if you sent them over in the corner with Candy Crush by themselves.
Christine Freeman: Yeah, that's a little different. Yeah, any
Olivia Darrell: We are flexible, but that would likely cross the line.
Christine Freeman: And any screen time you want to use it wisely.
Lauren Martino: Uh-huh. Keep it honest folks, keep it honest.
Julie Dina: So for parents who say how do I get my child started with the program, what is your suggestion?
Olivia Darrell: Just bring your child to any MCPL library branch and talk to one of the staff members at our information desk. They'll be able to get you signed up on Beanstack and give you your first reading log. Then check out books and read, read, read.
Christine Freeman: And it's really cute how it's themed. It has this ocean theme that I'm super excited about that our wonderful designer came up with. And so all the stickers they receive are going to have like the number of books they finished with a little ocean critter, and their backpack and their little frame is going to be ocean-themed as well, super cute.
Olivia Darrell: And we're trying to figure out if we could incorporate like penguins into our little I read a 100 books thing for Silver Spring. They're ocean creatures.
Christine Freeman: It looked like little wood - like on a wood stick, and they can have that be like a selfie friend.
Lauren Martino: There you go, "Selfie friend.” Penguin selfie friend, I like it. You probably have a stuffed animal you can repurpose for that. Yeah, if you're not aware, Penguins are the unofficial mascot of Silver Spring so if you come to the Silver Spring library there are many, many penguins, which are ocean creatures. I really like the idea of - the coloring I think is going to be a lot of fun, like those little shells.
Christine Freeman: I think so too. And we should mention that parents who want to keep track of the books, they are welcome to use Beanstack to log every single title if they choose to do that. But if they don't want to log the books they can simply give the child a coloring form that their child can color in the shells and that's good enough too.
Lauren Martino: And there are some new ways to log on Beanstack now, aren't there?
Olivia Darrell: There are. So you can batch log. So if you don't have time every night to check in and say we read five books, we read one book, we did two moments, you can say, "Okay, well this week we did 10." And you can batch all 10 at once, all the way up to a hundred.
Christine Freeman: And if you need any assistance doing that don't forget you can always ask our librarians to help you batch log in your books.
Julie Dina: Most important thing it sounds like is whenever you're not sure, go to our librarians who are always ready to help.
Olivia Darrell: Yes. Some people think that librarians know everything. While I wish that were true, we don't know everything but we can find out almost anything for you.
Lauren Martino: So it looks like you're really trying to get beyond the library walls with this?
Christine Freeman: For sure. Because it's a program you really can do from home. You can read any books; they don't have to be library books. If you have a library in your house those books count. If you borrow books from another library, those books count. So any books that you're reading count, online, in print.
Olivia Darrell: Yeah. You're at the doctor's office waiting room and they have a book; that counts. And Julie, as you know, as an outreach staff member, that we're always trying to get new people coming through the door. So we're hoping to reach out to people who aren't already in our branches.
Julie Dina: You can count on me. We'll reach out and touch someone.
Christine Freeman: And it's not just books that parents read, it's the books than anybody reads. If they're with grandma and grandpa, if they're with their older sister or brother; if they're reading to them all those books count as well.
Lauren Martino: I think it's really important to get to people who aren't already going to the library.
Olivia Darrell: Very important, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Which is why, Julie, we are counting on you.
Julie Dina: Another episode.
Christine Freeman: It's an amazing resource that not all places have, free libraries.
Lauren Martino: An outreach department or free libraries?
Christine Freeman: Free libraries. And an outreach department.
Julie Dina: Good one, Christine.
Olivia Darrell: Which they're great too. They're great too.
Lauren Martino: So we love to ask our guests what are you reading right now that you are excited about, Olivia?
Olivia Darrell: So, believe it not, even though I buy lots of books, I don't have a lot of time to read lots of books. But I do a lot of listening. So I listen to podcasts. And my favorite one right now, besides of course Library Matters, is This American Life. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks. I'm in-between right now, but the one that I just finished is called No One Is Coming to Save Us.
Lauren Martino: Oh gosh, it's sounds cheerful.
Olivia Darrell: It's a little more cheerful than it sounds, but it's not a kid-friendly book by any means. One that I would recommend is The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell. He reads it, and I always kind of like when the author reads their own book, and anything by Jason Reynolds.
Lauren Martino: Oh my Gosh, yes, can't go wrong.
Olivia Darrell: Can't go wrong.
Lauren Martino: And Christine, do you have anything that you'd like to talk to us about? You're laughing.
Christine Freeman: Okay, so I have to admit that in preparation for my role as a teen services person I read a lot of YA fiction. And I just finished the entire Selection series by Kiera Cass. So they're all about the princess and finding her prince.
Lauren Martino: They're not all about that. I've read these too.
Christine Freeman: They're fun. They're lighthearted easy reads for a rainy day on the weekend. I'm also in the middle of another book called Sucktown, Alaska by Craig Dirkes, it's a little darker, also a YA book that I'd recommend.
Julie Dina: Well, thank you so very much Olivia and Christine for coming on the program today.
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