January 17, 2012

When “Because it’s good for you” isn’t enough: Wisconsin library bribes parents to join 1,000-books-before-kindergarten program


Listen up all you lollygagging parents of toddlers out there. With all the cognitive research in, it’s time to start taking that bedtime story a little more seriously. Reading to the little rascals will actually help them later on. It’s a scientifically proven fact.

And our neighbors up north have found a way to help, according to this report in the Fond du Lac Reporter:

The Fond du Lac Public Library‘s new early literacy program titled 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten encourages parents to make the time necessary for reading aloud with their children.

According to reading and learning experts, reading aloud with children is the single most important activity for parents to prepare children to learn to read. This can stimulate language and cognitive skills; build motivation, curiosity and memory; build vocabulary; encourage positive feelings about books and reading later in life; and help children cope during stressful times.

The program aims to help parents give their children a solid learning foundation.

But those wiley Wisconsonites (what do you call people from Wisconsin?) know that learning benefits alone will not motivate little Johnny’s parents. So they have figured our how to incentify the scheme:

The free program will help parents keep track of reading at home, day care, preschool and 4K and will provide incentives to keep parents motivated through the child’s preschool years.

At each 100-book level, parents and children receive rewards such as free books and gift cards for gas and groceries to keep them motivated to continue. After achieving each 100-book milestone, the child’s name will appear on a banner in the Children’s Room at the library.

And if the parents and children actually make it to 1,000, the child’s name is inscribed on a bookplate in a Children’s collection book. Kids who finish also will be invited to a celebration hosted by Browser, the library’s mascot. Though there are no further details about who/what Browser is—a dog, perhaps?—the librarians are committed to the program.

“‘This program is intended to reinforce parents’ role as their child’s first and best teachers,’ Children’s Services Coordinator Julia Cartwright told the Reporter, “But the program will be big on fun, too, with activities throughout the year to keep the momentum going.'”


Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.