DAVENPORT, Iowa — In the Golden household, storytime is sacred.
You can typically find 2-year-old Jack Golden on the couch snuggled between his parents, curled up with an open library book and covered in his dedicated reading blanket.
The tiny toddler first got his library card back in April, and since then, the family has traveled over 100 times with Jack to the Davenport Public Library. Now, he goes three times a week and takes home an average of 20 books at a time. It’s a routine.
"He'll walk in, and he immediately runs and picks his little cart," his dad, Matthew Golden, said. "Then (he) goes through all the books, usually taking an entire row and throwing it into his little cart before wheeling around and letting Dad pick out the books, which is always my favorite part."
All those stories added up. Over the last year, Jack has read more than 1,700.
"He's gone over 49,000 pages read, which has been a lot of fun,” Matthew said.
In honor of his reading achievement, Jack's picture is now on display at the Davenport library right beside so many of the books he's read.
"Reading is fun! This isn't a chore,” Davenport Library Early Literacy Coordinator Alison McGaughey said. “This is opening up a whole world of imagination and creativity."
McGaughey helps run the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program at the public library branch. The program encourages families to foster a love of reading early on in their children’s lives.
According to a 2020 National Assessment of Education Progress survey, the number of kids aged 8-13 who read for fun on a daily basis has dropped in the last 10 years and reached its lowest level since 1984.
"(Reading) helps increase their language skills, their vocabulary and all kinds of development and parent-child bonding that can be gained through that reading experience," McGaughey said.
Since the program launched in March 2021, 500 local kids have signed on and over 50,000 books have been logged, she said.
The rules for the program are simple: To get to 1,000 books, kids can read by themselves or with their parents, and it can be the same story 1,000 times or hundreds of different ones.
"I'll turn the corner, and he's sitting there flipping through books,” Matthew said. “And it's not maybe at the pace of exactly reading, but he's looking at the pictures. He's trying to comprehend, 'How does Dad pull this story out of this book?'"
Soon, Jack will be reading all on his own. But for now, his parents are busy soaking up as much quality storytime as possible.
"It's very fun to show him just how much he can get from just reading a book,” his dad said.
What’s currently on Jack’s reading list? “The Berenstain Bears,” and the book series has more than 300 antics-filled picture books for the 2-year-old to feast his hungry eyes on.
Although Jack's hit the 1,000 book milestone, this isn't the end. It's the first chapter in his lifelong love of reading.
To register your own child for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, visit the Davenport Public Library website.
For achieving different reading milestones, kids receive prizes, according to the library. At the top tier, they'll get a t-shirt, a personalized bookplate inside their favorite library book and their photo will join Jack's on display in the library.