Seven local youths, all age 5 and under, celebrated alongside their relatives during a recent completion ceremony for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program at Camarena Memorial Library in Calexico.
Just like the title of the program says, these pre-kinder kids had their parents or guardians read them 1,000 books, all of which were meticulously logged in increments of 100 books, said Lizeth Legaspi, acting city librarian.
Those logs were then turned in to the library where the readers could redeem them for prizes, including up to five new paperbacks every 200 books or so, Legaspi said.
“It’s a wonderful program,” said Legaspi, who took over as acting city librarian following the retirement of Calexico Community Services Director Sandra Tauler in late September. Tauler was also Camarena’s librarian.
“One of the core values of the library is to develop life-long learners,” Legaspi said during a recent interview.
She added the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program hits that mark, as well as better preparing children to learn how to read upon entering kindergarten.
The program helps the children acquire many pre-reading skills so they learn to read even faster, she said. Those skills include the proper way to hold books, understanding that they will learn to read pages from left to right and from top to bottom. Legaspi said parents or guardians reading to children also helps the youths “make connections, and understand (the material) sooner.”
“You can really see the impact of this program once the children attend kindergarten,” Legaspi said.
Ten children completed the program, but only seven could make it to the closing ceremony Oct. 17 at the library, Legaspi said.
In addition to the prizes collected for read books, the children and readers who finished out the program were given swag bags full of all sorts of goodies at the completion ceremony, including more books, a pencil box, crayons, glue, coloring books, a water bottle, little toys, a medal, and a trophy.
They also received certificates from the city of Calexico and San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus, which also threw in an SDSU-IV flag for each child, Legaspi added. Two representatives from the university, Hector Ochoa and Andrea Tellez, were on hand at the completion ceremony to hand out their certificates and the flags.
Some of the children and their readers completed the program in one year, while others took a bit longer, but those who made it accomplished something special, Legaspi said.
“We are very appreciative and happy that families put in all of this effort,” she said. “This program was a good chance for parents to spend quality time with their kids.”