MAGNOLIA Wyatt Ecenbarger has more books under his short belt than most people read in a lifetime.
He's read 1,044 of them.
A second-grader at Day Integrated School in Canton, Wyatt reads two to 15 books every day after school, his mother, Brittney, said.
"It was Wyatt's idea," she said of the original goal to read 1,000 books. "We've set a page goal for next year of 60,000, including 20 'chapter' books."
His first book?
"Growing Up," Wyatt replied, adding that he also likes reading the "Goosebumps" series.
Brittney Echenbarger keeps a running tab of the titles in a notebook, as part of their almost-daily visits to the Sandy Valley branch of the Stark County District Library at 9754 Cleveland Ave. SE, where the staff helps the family select books for Wyatt.
"I'm surprised when I don't see Brittney," branch manager Susan Jacobs said with a laugh. "We talked about a book goal for every year. We kept track every month. He's a totally loyal library patron; he loves to read. It's just so important."
Jacobs added that infancy to age 5 is very important time in the development of a child's literary and vocabulary skills.
According to Reading is Fundamental, reading not only helps with development, it also reinforces the pleasure of reading, encourages critical thinking, fosters special interests, and helps children to navigate their natural curiosity about the world around them.
The National Center for Education Statistics, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, reports that of children 3 to 5 who are read to daily, 54 percent are able to write their own names and recognize all the letters of the alphabet, compared to 40 percent of those who are not.
Also, children who live in homes below the federal poverty guidelines are less likely to be read to at home, than children living in higher-income homes. The Department of Education also reports that the more a child reads for pleasure, the better they perform on achievement tests.
In a poll of high school and middle-school students commissioned by the National Education Association poll, 56 percent of the participants said they read more than 10 books a year. Seventy percent of middle school students read more than 10 books a year, while 49 percent of high school students read more than 10 a year.
However, adults' overall interest in reading is on a downward slope.
Fewer book readers
In 2015, Smithsonian Magazine reported that 27 percent of American adults didn't read a single book over a year's time.
The Pew Research on Public Life found that the average American reads four books per year, and that the percentage of Americans who read books was 72 percent in 2015; down from from 79 percent in 2011.
Though the U.S Department of the Census no longer tracks illiteracy, an estimated 11 million Americans are classified as illiterate; 7 million because due to a lack of skill, and 4 million because of language barriers.
The Stark County District Library has a raft of programs to encourage young readers, including its Start Smart early literacy program, Kids Info Bits, free loans of children's learning tablets, and backpacks containing books and materials pertaining to science, adventure and fiction.
The system also offers a separate young adult department.
"We are so thrilled that Wyatt reached his goal of reading 1,000 books this year!" library CEO and Executive Director Mary Ellen Icaza said in a statement. "Early literacy is one part of Stark Library’s mission of lifelong, inspired learning, and Wyatt’s mom, Brittney, is helping to set him up for success in life by ensuring that he has strong reading skills."
"He's always had a bigger vocabulary than his age because of his books," Brittney Ecenbarger said of her son. "I've been reading to him since he was a baby. I read to other kids too, even while growing up."
Reading also clearly has given Wyatt an imagination. He said he aspires to be President of the United States, a police officer, and have 16 children, all while living with his mom, and dad, Matt.
More information on youth reading programs is available at https://starklibrary.org/home/services/children/ and www.rif.org
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