1000 Books Before School: A New Zealand Library's Pilot Project

  • 1 April 2019
  • Jerri Pirc

1000 Books Before School’s Vision is to create a “we read aloud to our children from birth” community culture in the Motueka Library District.

1000 Books before School was launched at the Motueka Public Library on 21 November 2017.

This pilot programme is a collaboration between Tasman District Libraries and the Motueka Family Service Centre and is supported by the Motueka Community.

1000 Books Before School is the result of a simple idea: The amount of reading, talking and singing you do with your children matters.

There is nothing quite like the triangle of love created by a parent, a child and a book.

At the launch Catherine Campbell, a Speech therapist made the compelling point that children need an ocean of language, not a puddle, not just a swimming pool or a lake but an ocean! 1000 Books Before School sets out to support and encourage families to start working on the ocean of language their children need right from birth using stories, waiata (songs) and poems.

When families join the programme they are provided with a colourful information packed booklet where they can record 1000 books as they read them to their children. The booklet also includes helpful reading tips for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers as well as examples of great books to be reading at these three different stages. This programme is for everyone and reading is encouraged in any language. For those people who reading aloud is not their strong point, the programme offers lots of alternatives like telling stories and singing that can be counted towards 1000 books.

How it works:

  • Join at Motueka Library and receive the booklet.
  • Participants choose how to record their reading. There is a story log in the book where a circle can be marked for each story read or told, the American App 1000 Books before Kindergarten can be used or personal journal can be used to list the books read aloud.
  • Visit Motueka Public library for special stickers to mark the reading journey towards 1000 books read aloud. Stickers are given at every 25 books recorded until they reach 100 books, where they will receive their book bag and after that stickers at every hundred milestones.
  • At the 500 milestone participants receive a congratulations certificate and celebrate with a tear-off voucher for coffee and fluffies from local café Toad Hall
  • Celebrate when 1000 books have been read, with a certificate and a gorgeous weka toy.


The first thirteen months

  • 217 children joined
  • Increase in Library membership
  • Increase in collection issues
  • 20 children completed the programme
  • Ninety-one individual children have visited the library to collect stickers during the reporting period
  • 40,750 books recorded             

  • 100 books: 80 children                                               

  • 500 books: 46 children

  • 1000 books: 20 children

Families participating in the programme shared these benefits with us:

  • Trips to the library more frequent.
  • Parents more motivated to read to all of their children
  • Increase in children's vocabulary and language development
  • Helped create a routine for reading to children.
  • Children enjoyed the friendly library staff and coming to the library to collect their stickers  

One of the strongest messages we received in the 1000 Books Before School feedback, was the positive benefits of making connections between parents and children through reading and between families and the librarians through their ongoing visits to the library.

We are on our way to creating a “we read to our children from birth” culture in Motueka!

Ka whangai, ka tupu, ka puawai – that which is nurtured grows, then blossoms.




Ngā mihi

Mary Butler

Library Assistant

Tasman District Libraries


As always, please share, subscribe to my newsletter, comment, and follow me on face book Jerri J. Pirc, author. And of course, feel free to buy a book or two. Also, check out my new photo gallery. You may recognise a face or two.

More later,

For more information refer to my earlier blog "Thirty MillionWords" or check out http://thirtymillionwords.org

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