Grantee Update: Rushville Public Library’s “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten”

It’s a bright spring day in late May, and Jeri McCorkle, Director of First5 Rush County’s Early Learning Coalition, is about to do one of her favorite parts of her job. “I get to read stories today,” she beams while lifting a box of books from her car.


RCCF’s CIRCLe Fund awarded their 2021 grant to the Rushville Public Library’s (RPL) program, “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.”  RPL and First5 have teamed up to engage as many infants and toddlers as possible by involving partners throughout the community. Caregivers are encouraged to sign up through an app to track each book they read with their children. It doesn’t matter if it’s one title read 1,000 times, 1,000 different books, or something in between. The goal is to check off 1,000 books read before entering kindergarten.


But it’s the long-term outcomes that really count.Getting our smallest residents on laps and having them read to is the best predictor of future school success,” shared Nicki Kirchoff, RPL’s Director. Research supports her claim. Ninety percent of brain development happens by age five.


Inside Little Stars Learning Academy in Rushville, a mural depicting characters from beloved children’s books covers the wall. It’s a scene as bright and cheery as the day itself. Thirteen 3-year-olds are ready and sitting on the floor. “Remember Ms. Jeri?” asks Kristen Hass, owner and teacher of the pre-school. “Can everyone say ‘hi’?


Hi, Ms. Jeri,” says a chorus of tiny voices. “Hi, everyone!” Jeri replies. “I’m going to read two books to you today and let you choose one to take home.”


Again?!” exclaims one excited little boy. Jeri’s grin returns. Her day is made.


She has chosen a book called Jabari Jumps about a boy overcoming his fear of jumping off the diving board. After she finishes, she lets the kids choose the next title. It’s a classic from 1956, Harry the Dirty Dog.


In addition to funding the app, the CIRCLe grant buys books that the kids get to keep. Jeri spreads multiple copies of several titles across the table. Each child chooses a book to take home. It’s fun to watch them consider their options. They get a chance to look through their choices before putting them away in their backpacks hanging along the wall.



So far, 223 children are signed up to participate. More than 400 books have been distributed and almost 19,000 books read to date.


Community members can keep an eye out for ‘Busi Book Baskets’, coming soon to local establishments.  Kiddos can enjoy these with their family or independently while the parents are doing business,” Jeri said.  “Books read there can be uploaded and counted toward their totals.  We will also have new Free Little Libraries and fun activities coming soon!


We are very appreciative of not just the grant we received, but the community’s response as well,” added Nicki. “We’re honored and gratified that so many other community members are as committed to this endeavor as we are.”


Is there a child in your life that would benefit from this program? Download the Reader Zone app from your phone’s app store then join with the code “c1f65.” Or visit RPL for assistance to get started today! Our children our counting on us to help them succeed.

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