By S.L. FLINSPACH
The Little Theatre in Merced Library was filled with families and well-wishers in the late afternoon of Friday, Nov. 4. Shimmery blue streamers and a large sign saying “Congrats Grads” decorated the front of the room, and seven sets of bright helium-filled balloons flanked one side.
A crowd of more than 40 had gathered to celebrate the graduation of preschoolers from “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” at the Merced County Library.
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is a national initiative to instill the love of reading in children at an early age. The Merced County Library launched its own 1,000 Books program as a pilot in 2016 and extended it to all library branches in early 2017. Families who sign up for the program are encouraged to read to their preschoolers daily, log all the books they finish, and collect prizes as they reach milestones along the way. A graduation ceremony honors those families who read 1,000 books together. The goals of the local program are to nurture the parent-child bond, increase the brain power of young participants, and eventually improve literacy rates in Merced County.
On Nov. 4, one graduate from Los Banos was unable to attend, but seven others crossed the stage to receive prizes and accolades: Kaiden Chambers Brown, Breya Ramirez and Bodhi Ramirez who are regular visitors to the Atwater branch; and Leo Baxter, Chloe Gomez, Preston Lara, and Annamarie Rodriguez from the Merced branch.
County Librarian Amy Taylor welcomed and congratulated the families, and Atwater library staff member Crystal Vega read “There’s a Monster in Your Book” by Tom Fletcher. Representatives from Assemblymember Adam Gray’s office and from Senator Anna Caballero’s office handed out certificates of recognition, and Congressman Jim Costa and the Merced County Board of Supervisors also provided certificates recognizing the young achievers. Children’s Librarian Yeng Xiong handed each graduate a book entitled The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin, and Children’s staff member Daisy Gonzalez-Velasco placed a gold medal around each graduate’s neck. Children’s Librarian Xiong closed the ceremony by urging the graduates to continue reading throughout their school years. Picture-taking, refreshments, and the distribution of helium balloons followed the graduation.