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York County Libraries is inviting kids to travel to each of the 13 local branches to receive stamps on library-issued "passports" as the early readers embark on a journey of 1,000 books. 

It's part of a customized version of a nationwide program the library system launched on Monday, Oct. 1.

The program, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,  encourages parents and caregivers to read with children before kids begin school, Director of Youth Services Paula Gilbert said. 

The travel theme, specific to York's program, gives parents a sense of "taking a journey with their children," she said. 

"They're excited to get from start to finish," Gilbert said.

At the launch, held at York City's Martin Library, 159 E. Market Street, children and parents received a map of York County's libraries and a list of free story-time events.

Kids  posed for photos to go inside their "passports," which have spaces for stamps as each 100-book milestone is reached. 

Other incentives include a book of choice and book bag at the 500-book mark and a T-shirt and car magnet at the 1,000-book finish line, Gilbert said. 

Next summer, the library will hold the first graduation ceremony for kids who finish the 1,000-book goal, she said, adding the graduation will likely become an annual event.

York is the first in the state to launch a county-wide 1,000 books program. It's sponsored by the Arthur J. and Lee R. Glatfelter Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Rotary Club of York and Haverford Trust Co.

During the launch, a crowd of about 40 heard from guest speakers, including Sara Bradley, learning policy director for the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children; Susan Pannebaker, youth services adviser for the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Office Commonwealth Libraries; and York County President Commissioner Susan P. Byrnes.

The launch concluded with a story-time session led by Carly Olmo, 2018 Miss Latina York County. 

Olmo read a bilingual children's book, "Margaret and Margarita/Margaret y Margarita."

The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program allows caregivers to read bilingual books or books in different languages, which are available at the 13 libraries, Gilbert said. 

East York resident Amber Gessner said she tries to read to her 18-month-old daughter Addison — the first young reader to receive her passport on Monday — every night.

"Some days are so chaotic I don't get around to at least read one," she said. "This definitely will give us a goal to read at least one a day." 

Gessner said she's an avid reader herself and wants to share that with her daughter.

"I love to read. I wish I could live in some books," she said.

Although Addison is still a ways away from kindergarten, Gessner said the earlier she exposes her daughter, the better.

York County Libraries President Robert F. Lambert agreed, saying it's important to expose children to literacy as early as possible.

"Only 34 percent of parents ready daily to their kids," he said, adding that even less do so with toddlers. 

Kids who are exposed to literacy are not only healthier, but also more likely to pursue higher education and less likely to go to jail, Lambert said. 

The 1,000 Books program is the latest way York County Libraries is making an effort to be a leader in early education, Gilbert said. 

"Not everyone can afford high-quality childcare," she said.

York County Libraries seeks to a provide families with similar educational experiences for free, Gilbert said. 

"This caught our eye because it's a great addition to what we're already doing," she said.

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