Most 4-year-old boys focus on getting dirty and playing with trucks, not reading 1,000 books.
But Walter Kanzenbach isn’t most 4-year-olds.
When he started reading at the age of 3, his parents, Sarah and Paul, thought they would let Walter take the lead and see where it would lead. They never thought their son would read 1,000 books in just under 365 days.
“We were already reading. I always worked books into his nap and bedtime routine, and we just started incorporating bedtime reading with him,” Sarah said.
Walter started reading after attending Kristyn Haberkorn’s daycare in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. One day, as children from daycare stood around the table, the former first-grade teacher decided they were smart enough to learn to read.
It was nine years ago.
“From the age of one (at my daycare) they start using markers, coloring and doodling, and sometime after they turn 2 they work on writing their names and writing “said Haberkorn, an early literacy consultant behind the Learn to read by reading program. “Originally (the reading program) started with the 5-year-olds, and then you know the younger ones understood the older kids. So now when the kids are 3, they start the reading program.
When Haberkorn’s son was preparing to enter kindergarten, she began writing all the books he read. There was never the idea that his son could hit 1,000 pounds – but he did. So from there, every book her kids read independently in daycare was written.
Each child reads a single book eight to 12 times, which slowly begins to decrease as they progress. Each time a book is read, it counts towards the grand total.
Sarah and Paul were careful with Walter’s reading. They didn’t want to push him to read, but rather nurture his love for it.
“We just let him take the lead,” Sarah said. “He has this huge appetite to read, and he just wants to read (the book) over and over and over, and he reads it at least four times and keeps asking.”
Parents should put a three-pound limit on naptime and bedtime or, Sarah says, they’d be up all night.
Paul said he wouldn’t have cared if Walter had only reached 300 pounds. He considers the number to be arbitrary, as the experience and knowledge of reading is the most important aspect.
“As an educator, I see daily the importance of reading in the overall process of education,” Paul said. “His (Walter’s) experiences with early reading will prepare him well for a lifetime of reading and learning enjoyment.”
Despite being the 31st child at Haberkorn Daycare to accomplish such a feat, Sarah said Walter didn’t find it too significant.
“When he hit the 1,000m mark, we were excited and I asked him if he wanted to do anything special, and he told me he wanted a big lollipop,” Sarah said. “He doesn’t think it’s a big deal, that’s what he does. It’s just normal for him.”
Walter said he was “Happy! Happy! Happy” about his accomplishment. Besides the lollipop, he got a trip to the candy store with Sarah and some jellybeans, because “that’s what I wanted,” he said.
Even after moving from Cannon Falls to Milwaukee, Walter’s appetite doesn’t seem to wane.
As he continues to receive Learn to Read by Reading books from Haberkorn and is working on 2,000 books, Walter will continue to read Paul any book that deals with dump trucks – two of his favorite things.