A BENDIGO mother is encouraging families to pick up books and start reading to their young children.
Beverley Manassa and her two-year-old son Joshua have completed the 1000 books before school program, which tracks a child's reading progress before they start prep.
Mrs Manassa said she started the challenge with Joshua and her husband Ash in April this year as Victoria entered the first COVID-19 lockdown period.
"We just read so much because of not being able to go out," she said. "We didn't want him to watch TV all of the time and he took a real interest in the books."
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Mrs Manassa said the child was not required to independently read 1000 books as part of the program.
Instead, parents could read to their child or even just allow the child to pick up the book and flick through it at their own pace.
"Any interest in the book can be counted," Mrs Manassa said. "You can read the same book over and over again.
"We don't have 1000 books, which is why we wanted to go to the library but because of COVID-19 that was a bit limited."
Mrs Manassa said the challenge had improved her son's literacy skills.
"Since we started reading, Joshua's vocabulary has just sky rocketed," she said. "His comprehension has also improved.
"For a two-year-old, he knows where to put all his words in place. It has been really good for his literacy development."
Mrs Manassa had been going to the Kangaroo Flat Library with Joshua before the pandemic started.
With libraries reopening to limited patrons in regional Victoria this week, she said she was excited to return.
"We will be there as soon as we can get there," she said. "Joshua is so excited. He keeps asking me if the library is open.
"We definitely want to go there and hand in the completed 1000 books before school form."
Mrs Manassa said while the challenge was completed, it didn't mean the family would stop reading.
"We might even do the program again," she said. "I feel like it's a great bonding time. You just feel a special connection when reading a book rather than watching TV.
"He asks questions and interacts. It feels like a very special, timeless moment."
Goldfields Library Corporation chief executive Mark Hands commended the family for taking part in the challenge.
"It's a great initiative for getting kids engaged around reading before school," he said. "It's really about getting kids familiarised with stories and how you read a book.
"It's not necessarily about literacy advancement and we're not expecting really young kids to be reading before school.
"It's just about enjoying stories and developing a reading habit."
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