This Kindergartner Hits 1,000!

Share Button
Kindergartener Zen Kweli (Photo: Marty Pearl, special to The Courier-Journal )

Kindergartener Zen Kweli (Photo: Marty Pearl, special to The Courier-Journal)

With the 2014 World Series in full swing, a dear friend of mine from Louisville, Kentucky, thought it appropriate to send me a clipping from that city’s newspaper; it celebrates a young lady named Zen Kweli. She’s a kindergartener who has achieved what most children (and many adults) never do. She’s read 1,000 unique books…and she did it before she entered her first day of school.

Now that’s “batting 1,000!”*

Of course her loving, resourceful and supportive mother had set the tone for this little girl’s reading success and predictably her ultimate school achievement by dedicating herself to supporting her little one in reaching this admirable milestone. Mom joyfully took her to their local library until they had read all of the picture books there. Then they graduated to the main library and finally added a library across the Ohio River in Indiana and several bookstores to find sufficient new reads for Zen.

So before day #1 of her kindergarten career, Zen was an avid and able reader.  Anyone who reads that much (or plays a sport that much or enjoys a musical instrument that much) is going to be not just capable, but is likely to grow to love and seek more of what they do so well.

The newspaper article doesn’t share much detail about Zen’s actual academic achievements. After all, it’s just a few months into her first school year, but here are some sure-fire bets about Zen:

  1. She has an immense and complex vocabulary.
  2. She has encountered a huge amount of information about the world, its people and cultures.
  3. She understands a lot about science and history and geography, and has seen a range of artistic media.
  4. If she hasn’t yet begun to write (but I bet that she has), she has the foundation to become a great writer from very early on.
  5. She’s started and she’ll stay at the top of her class all the way through school.

Now, these results are not the focus of any established must do curriculum for nervous parents. They are the natural results of raising children who get hooked on books.

With that in mind, it is not necessary for every parent to feel obligated to exhaust all of the resources in the local libraries and bookstores before their child enters school.

It is not necessary for each child to read 1,000 unique books.

Nor is it even necessary for kids to read a particular number of books before the end of elementary school.

What is necessary is that families commit themselves to develop and maintain a culture of reading, which is exactly what Zen’s mom has worked so hard to do.

In such households with such a culture, family members:

  • Enjoy reading books, some alone and some together
  • Enjoy their books every day
  • Have an automatic default tendency to pick up a book they are currently reading
  • Learn lots and love to talk about what they learned through reading
  • Have fun together around the ideas and experiences that books bring into the home.

Such school success is not magic. It’s a natural consequence of a simple family decision that reading books matters, and it’s available in every family that has access to abundant books.

All kids have to do then, is enjoy stepping up to the plate every day.

*In baseball Batting 1,000 means a player gets on base, every time she is at bat.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “This Kindergartner Hits 1,000!”

  1. Bob Rose November 5, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Zen’s parents obviously taught her to write the alphabet with a pencil fluently before she went to kindergarten. Maria Montessori taught that the best age to teach children to do this was from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years of age. She also taught that kids who write the alphabet fluently at that age become literate SPONTANEOUSLY

  2. Bob Rose November 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    Unfortunately, Marilyn Jager Adams has written that more than half of American children finishing first-grade still can’t write and name all of the alphabet letters.

    The reason black children to poorly in school is that their parents are less likely to teach this than white parents. Zen’s parents are obviously an exception.

    • Mark Condon November 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

      Ha! Are you saying that it is unfortunate that she wrote that? I think so. I’d need to see her reference on that, Bob. The reason that black kids do poorly as a group is that black kids as a group live in poverty. Poverty for children from any group gives rise to an amazing range of factors interfering with academic success, like parents having to work several jobs and having little time or energy left for their kids.

  3. Clara October 8, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    Hi Mark!
    Im Zen’s Mom, Clara. Its been nearly a year since the Courier article initially ran and she is doing very well in 1st Grade. Her current book count is around 1300. I am now doing the 1000 book challenge with my preschool class! We’ve reached 278 books. Thank you for taking the time to write about us.

    • Mark Condon October 9, 2015 at 8:29 am #

      How lovely to hear from you, Clara. It is no surprise that Zen is doing so well given the richness of experience you provided for her with the 1000 books she read. I’m glad Zen is continuing her reading. Recent research has suggested that kids who come into the primary grades all powered up from such a good early education experience can actually be slowed down by the instruction they receive that ignores their early achievements. It sounds like you are setting your preschoolers up for similar success. How lucky they are to have you as their teacher!