The poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” It turns out that is also true of children’s books.
That is why Beth Coughlin, a children’s librarian at the Swampscott Public Library for 26 years, is launching a program that encourages parents to read to their children at a very early age.
“They can start at birth if they want to,” she said, “but they can also start at 1 or 2.”
Very young children benefit from hearing words read aloud and seeing them printed on a page, well before their reading skills start to develop, Coughlin said.
“It helps them in a lot of different ways,” she said. “It’s like learning a language. By hearing the sounds and rhythms of words, hearing the syllables and looking at letters as they follow along with a book, they learn the language, they get pre-literacy skills.”
The program’s title, “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” describes an ambitious-sounding goal, but Coughlin points out that reading three books a day would reach that goal in less than a year.
Parents can of course take a more leisurely route to reading 1,000 titles, and the library will help them stay on track by providing a series of reading logs.
“They get a book bag with crayons,” she said, “and we’ll have book lists available for the parents.”
Coughlin said there are a number of libraries in the Midwest where “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” has been implemented, and she got permission from the public library in Southington, Conn., to use their logo for the program.
Parents are encouraged to sign up for the program at the library starting Jan. 3.