Reading books to your child is a great excuse to snuggle up and enjoy quality time, and it may give children lifelong educational advantages. That’s why The Indianapolis Public Library is inviting caregivers to sign their little ones up for the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Reading Challenge. The free program, available all year round and open to all children before entering kindergarten, promotes early learning by rewarding children with prizes when they reach reading milestones. What is the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten? 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a national program that aims to support school readiness and the relationship between children and parents. The Indianapolis Public Library awards prizes after reading 100, 500 and 1,000 books. At 1,000 books, every child receives a free hardback picture book. “Due to COVID-19, many children have spent more time away from daycare or school,” said Shael Weidenbach, Herbert Simon Early Literacy Specialist with The Indianapolis Public Library. “They are away from places where children typically enjoy group read-aloud and are exposed to new vocabulary. So right now is an important time to make sure reading regularly with your children becomes a habit at home. It’s a great way to bond with your child and develop a lifelong love of reading.” According to the Literacy Project, a program aimed at removing the literacy gap, academic success at the ages of nine and 10 can be attributed to the number of words children hear from birth to the age of three. Young children exposed to certain early language and literacy experiences also prove to be good readers later in life. Reading supports cognitive development, increases concentration and discipline, and inspires creativity and imagination. Reading 1,000 books before may sound intimidating, but it’s often easier than parents and caregivers think. If a child reads just one book at bedtime for three years, they will have read 1,095 books. It takes less than a year to reach 1,000 books if a child reads three books each day. How can families get started? Patrons can register for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten at any IndyPL location or on the Beanstack app. Participants can track their progress on paper or online in Beanstack. Patrons can use books from home or from the Library. If you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar five times, that counts for 5 books! Looking for the perfect book to start with? Patrons can browse reading lists in the For Parents section of our blog or check out a Bunny Book Bag, a grab-and-go bag of 15-20 books for caregivers on the move. We have a variety of video picture-book read alouds and online storytimes to help young readers reach 1,000 books in no time. The virtual programs Playdate with a Book and Reading Ready Time are a lot of fun!