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1,000 books before kindergarten

Two community children recently reached big milestones when they became the first kids to complete the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program at the Cumberland County Public Library.

The program, a national challenge created by the 1,000 Books Foundation, encourages reading and development by challenging both children and their families. In the program, parents are tasked with reading 1,000 books to their child before the students enter kindergarten.

One of the kids who recently reached 1,000 books was Ashlyn San Felice, a 5-year-old from Cumberland.

Ashlyn’s mother, Nicole San Felice Wolfe, said the family learned about the program through Cumberland County Public Library Director Lisa Davis, who noticed Ashlyn was regularly coming into the library to check out stacks and stacks of books.

Ashlyn started the program in Pre-K and spent nearly a year reading 1,000 books with the help of family members, including two big helpers, her Grammy and her big brother, Kody.

Ashlyn and her mother spent their first summer of the program heading over to the library several times a week to get new books. They were also able to utilize a children’s book app called Epic to give Ashlyn access to thousands of books during a time in which the library was temporarily closed.

Actually, Ashlyn and her mother didn’t realize until the end of the program that Ashlyn didn’t have to read a new book every time in order to receive credit for the read. The program allows kids and their parents to repeat books. Ashlyn, however, managed to read 1,000 different books during the challenge.

Some of her favorite books include Be a Star, Wonder Woman; Sweet Dreams, Supergirl; Pinkalicious; How to Catch a Mermaid and My First Book of Girl Power.

When Ashlyn isn’t reading, she enjoys spending time outdoors, riding her bike, swimming, cheering, dancing and riding her pony, “Tootsie.”

San Felice Wolfe recommends encouraging reading every day to young children, and rewarding kids’ accomplishments and milestones with books. She added reading to kids from day one is a vital part of instilling in children a love for reading. For her, it’s a huge part of helping kids recognize and reach their goals.

Parsa Sajjadi also recently reached his 1,000 book milestone.

Parsa, a 4-year-old from Farmville, loves books so much that he has a membership at libraries in Cumberland, Farmville and Crewe.

According to Parsa’s father, Hannan Sadjady Naeeni, Parsa is always delighted in being able to go to the library and pick out his own books, often leaving with piles of books to take home. He has his own library of sorts at home, with perhaps more than 300 books on his shelf at a given time.

Some of Parsa’s favorite types of books include National Geographic, books from the Elephant and Piggie series, Pete the Cat, and Dr. Seuss books. When he’s not reading, Parsa enjoys playing games, playing outdoors and taking walks with his parents.

Parsa’s mom, Ensieh Mohseni, started reading to Parsa when he was a baby, and Mohseni says it’s never too early to begin reading to your child.

Naeeni highlighted the great librarians at each library, who he said do a fantastic job of making libraries a fun and comfortable place for area children.

According to Davis, Parsa actually went well beyond the 1,000 book goal when he came in to drop off his final book log. In fact, Parsa had reached 1,500 books by his last log.

Davis said kids who participate in the 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program are able to come in and pick out a new book donated by the Library of Virginia after every 100 books read.

Davis wishes to encourage families to participate in the program, emphasizing the importance of reading at such a young age. Last year, she made a trip to Cumberland Pre-K and Head Start classes to give each child a free book and information to take home about the program.

It’s important for parents to know that kids can get credit for books read by teachers, too, and parents can play videos on YouTube of books being read and shown to kids in order to count the books in the challenge.

Davis emphasized, though, that even if families don’t get to 1,000 books, the benefits of reading to children early on are limitless.

“Even if they don’t get to 1,000, in the end they won’t regret any time spent reading to their child.”