Children's Literature · Reading Club

1000 Books before Kindergarten: Gearing Up

1000Books Train logo

Public Libraries: We’re not just book depositories anymore…

Perhaps those words may be eye-opening to some members of the public but, for years, librarians have been striving to open up the library to various forms of information retrieval, educational entertainment, relaxation, exploration, and the promotion of literacy. Our libraries are free community centers open to all with an interest in basically everything. Did I mention I love my job?

In the Youth Department of Fremont Library, we maintain strong circulation of our materials but we have also discovered our patrons love of programming, particularly passive programming and crafting programs. When programs are not in session, we open up the program room’s doors and invite visiting patrons to play with Legos, K’Nex, Rainbow Loom, and board games. Our stats are through the roof with this simple invitation to play.

That being said, the community still views our library as a haven for literacy. While I fully support this fun use of our space for other activities, I do not believe that we should sacrifice our ability to promote reading. Enter a passive reading program.

…But literacy is still a main focus

Drawing inspiration from several libraries that have implemented 1000 Books B4K (starting as early as 2006!), I am hardly the first to start this program–nor am I the last! Marge Loch-Wouters is known for a lot of amazing advancements and uplifting camaraderie in the realm of Youth Services. She is a huge proponent of 1000 Books before Kindergarten and has blogged extensively about it, including an ongoing blogliography (Say that word out loud. Say it out loud right now.) and general shout outs of other librarian’s posts on 1000 Books B4K. What I’m saying is, go to those links and you will be swept up by the 1000 Books B4K hype and will have no other choice but to do it at your library. Here’s to you, Marge:


So, I started my 1000 Books journey with digital Marge and have not stopped. I received a lot of help from nearby libraries that have started the program, using our networking group Lapsit Leaders to present their programs and their success. After a half year of planning (and some serious crunch time in the past few months), I am proud to start this program up come September. When I started researching this program, I had a slew of questions. Instead of writing in typical paragraph format (ugh, so booooooring), I’ll present Fremont’s 1000 Books B4K in Q&A format. If you have any questions that you’d like me to add, please comment on this post and I will get to them ASAP.

Q: What did your process look like to start this off?

A: After the research I mentioned above, I started by creating a To-Do Checklist (that I am still adding to). I also wanted to give the program a professional flair, so we sought out a graphic designer to help us create several components including: logo, Tally Sheet + Instructions + Tally Sheet Cover, mural, Promotional Poster, and the literacy key fob prize (inspiration from Storytiming). To have done all of this graphic design ourselves would have taken a considerable amount of staff time that warranted third-party help.

Q: How did you get your coworkers on board?

A: My coworkers are very supportive of new initiatives as long as there are clear directions and a supportable goal. If these considerations are followed then they are willing to take on a new task at the desk. The goal is simple, effective, and easy to get behind: to get kids to be read to more! And managers love the idea of increased circulation. As a passive program, we will always be able to provide reading families, and those in search of reading incentives, a way to satisfy their hunger.

Q: Where did you receive your funding? What was the start-up cost?

A: Usually put towards materials, we were able to use our Per-Capita grant towards literacy initiatives this year. It was a sizeable amount so we have stock-piled a lot of prizes to last us for 500 children.

Q: How do children sign up?

A: Children ages birth-5 sign up at the desk. Upon signing up, they receive a binder with all tally sheets that they are responsible for maintaining and bringing in. More than one child participating? Families receive one binder to store all children’s logs. Adults must be Fremont cardholders to participate due to staff time and financial investment.

Q: What are the incentives to keep children participating?

A: Every 100 books read, the child may visit the library and put a dot sticker on the next car on the train mural.

1000Books Mural logo
Mural will be placed on the outer wall of our YS desk. There will be 10 cars where children can place dot stickers.

Every odd numbered hundred, a prize will be awarded. We will be spending about $14.50 per child. The prizes are as follows:

Starting Prize: Binder ($2 per child)

100: Reusable bag with logo ($1.05 per child)

300: Felt alphabet (volunteer time + $2 per child)

500: Picture on the wall

700: Laminated place mat ($2.50 each)

900: Stroller fob (carabiner for $1.50 each)

Ending Prize: Book ($3 each) and Superhero cape that reads “Superhero Reader” ($2.50 per cape + volunteer time)

Q: Why did you choose the format of your tally sheet?

A: My library prefers the less intrusive form of reading clubs that allow a parent and child to focus on reading, not labor intensive documentation (not that it’s that exhausting but, you know…). Instead of writing the title and author for every book read, the child can color in a train car. There is still an opportunity to write their favorite books at the bottom of each tally sheet as a memento to keep. Finally, one early literacy tip is included on each sheet to encourage different forms of interaction while reading and interacting in daily life.

Q: How are you promoting this program?

A: We have set up posters throughout the library with the ominous start date of “September” just in case something demonic tears through the office. In November, we will be celebrating Family Reading Month with the official kick-off of 1000 Books before Kindergarten, 100 Books before High School, and Read for a Lifetime (the latter two will be blogged about at a later date), providing a passive reading program for all youth. We’re hoping to get some star performers!

Q: Do you have other passive reading programs for older kids?

A: We currently have a book of the month program (read 4, get a prize) for grades 5-8 and one for HS students where we interlibrary loan 10 copies of the same book. Remarkably, the books almost always check out but I have never given away a prize, so, yeah. We also have a program called Pin Pals for grades 3-5 where children read 5 books of a certain genre, rate it by number of stars, and then receive a button in that genre. This has been popular in the past but the excitement around it has simmered down (now).

Please let me know if you have any lingering thoughts or questions. Tentative release date is September 1st so I’ll soon let you all know how it goes!

7 thoughts on “1000 Books before Kindergarten: Gearing Up

    1. Thank you for your very kind words *blush*. I love how you broke down what you did and the clear explanation and FAQs. Wow! I’ve linked this post into the uber 1KBksB4k resource post I share (the blogliography – I love that!). Have a great time with the program!!!

  1. Hi- What fabulous information! I am so excited that we are getting ready to kick off our 1000 books program in Feb. Where did you find the great train graphics? We have an old train depot in town and we wanted to use the train theme somehow. Love the engine especially and would love to know where I could purchase the rights to use it. thanks!!

    1. Hi Terry! The train was created by a staff member at Fremont Public Library in Mundelein, Illinois. I no longer work there but you are more than welcome to call them up regarding the graphic.

      I’m so excited for your program and good luck! Your kids are gonna love it!

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