Milford girl reads 1,000 books before kindergarten

5-year-old Emma Richards poses at the Milford Library, in Milford, Conn. Sept. 26, 2022.
5-year-old Emma Richards poses at the Milford Library, in Milford, Conn. Sept. 26, 2022.Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — To say Emma Richards loves reading would be an understatement.

The 5-year-old, with her mother Amy Norback, by her side, has proven quite the bookworm, reading 1,000 books just as she enters kindergarten this year as part of The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge sponsored through Milford Library.

"I like reading books because they are fun," said Richards, who reached the milestone the first week of September.

Milford's 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program is funded by the Friends of Milford Library. It is a self-paced program that promotes reading together as one of the best ways to prepare a child to become a reader, said Suzanne Harrison-Thomas, Milford Library children's librarian who is transitioning to assistant director.

"The more words a child hears before they enter kindergarten, the better prepared they will be to learn to read," said Harrison-Thomas. "A great way to introduce a rich vocabulary is sharing stories."

Norback said she knew about the program because she used to be a teacher, and their friends had started tracking the books they read with their children. 

"We came to the library and picked up the form," she said. "We started the program when Emma was 4 years old, and it helped us come to the library because we had to turn in our sheet every time she read 100 books."

Richards said her favorite books are the "My Little Pony" series.

"They are my favorite books because of all the colors," she said.

Richards reads about two books before bed with Norback. They will also read one to three books during the day.

Norback said they read a variety of books, from books about animal facts to the first two Harry Potter books.

"Her uncle and aunt gave her the illustrated version of Harry Potter for Christmas," said Norback. "It takes us a night or two to read a chapter, but she likes them."

Norback said they also listen to audiobooks.

"We finished two: 'Superfudge' and 'Double Fudge,'" said Richards.

Norback said the program made it easy and encouraged reading as a family.

"When her grandparents were in town, the kids would bring them books, and they would read five or six books in one sitting back to back," she said. "They love having people read to them, and it was fun hearing her say that grandpa helped her read five books."

Participating in the program also helped Richards become a little more independent because she would pick out books she wanted to read, Norback said, adding they wouldn't necessarily be books she would pick out for her daughter.

"It exposed her to many words and different characters that she isn't familiar with," said Norback. "We also made sure to pick out books about different cultures and traditions that she's not exposed to all the time. So it's nice that she's getting exposed to different perspectives.

"I knew that if she liked reading, the skills of reading would come later, but her enjoying books is something that we can't necessarily teach," she added.