A 2-1/2-year-old Mesa County girl just received her "gold leaf" after reading 1,000 books. Mesa County Libraries are participating in the "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten" program, encouraging parents to read with their pre-Kindergarten children. How can your family take part?

According to the Mesa County Public Libraries' website, the program "reinforces the fact that parents are their child's first and best teachers." Participation in the program is free. To get started, you can register online or at any Mesa County Public Library location.

You may ask yourself, "Is it possible to read a thousand books to a child before they reach Kindergarten age?" Absolutely. Consider this: If you were to read exactly one bedtime story every night, it would take less than three years to hit 1,000.

Obviously, you are not required to read "War and Peace." Bedtime stories more than meet the criteria required for the program.

You and your child's first goal is to hit 100 books. Participants keep track of their progress with the provided log book. When you hit 100 books, your child will receive a green leaf on he Mesa County Library's "Reading Tree."

When you and your child reach the 500 mark, they'll earn a silver leaf on the tree. Upon reaching 1,000 books, your child will receive a gold leaf on the tree, along with a free book.

According to the program's guidelines, if your child really likes a book, and wants to read it over and over again, that's okay. Each reading counts. There's no rule that says you can only read one book a day. If you want to read three or four, do it.

Be your child's first and best teacher! Read to them every day. Give your child a head start while encouraging them to be curious, learn new words, and pursue the love of reading.