Alessia, who turns 3 this month, and her family - mum and dad Anna and Ricky Williamson, little sister Maisie, 14 months, older siblings Talvin, 15, and Amelia, 11, and grandparents, are keen supporters of the 1000 Books Before School challenge, a Taieri Rotary Project.
Taieri Rotary youth committee member Jill Thomas and club member Colin Brown visited the family at home on Friday to present Alessia with a certificate for becoming the first young reader to complete the 1000 Books Before School challenge since it began six months ago.
Mr Brown said the 1000 Books Before School project was the brainchild of club stalwart Trevor Millar, who died late last month.
Inspired by a similar programme in the United States, Mr Millar had been very enthusiastic about the aims of the 1000 Books Before School challenge and its aims of encouraging all families to read aloud to their tamariki, Mr Brown said.
Participating families receive a booklet, created by Taieri Rotary, which guides them through the process of reading with small children, and helps them to keep track of the number of books read in a colourful and engaging way.
With the support of Mosgiel Library, 700 booklets have been distributed to Taieri families in the past six months, including the Williamsons.
Mrs Williamson said taking on the reading challenge had been ‘‘great fun’’ and had definitely helped Alessia to develop a love of books, and was now inspiring little Maisie as well.
‘‘Alessia started out being excited by the challenge - colouring in and putting stickers in the booklet, but that has become a real love of books and reading,’’ she said.
The 1000 Books Before School programme was something all families could engage in, getting books from the library for free and reading them over and over again - something children loved to do.
‘‘Alessia has 30 books out of the library and she has a weekly visit with her grandma, where she takes eight or nine books back and gets new ones,’’ Mrs Williamson said.
‘‘It can be quite a challenge each week to decide which books to take back.’’
Being read aloud to was a wonderful thing for children, and helped them to develop listening and other skills.
‘‘It has been interesting to see Maisie’s response as well - she is now interested in what is happening and likes to come and listen.
‘‘Now that Alessia has finished her first booklet, we have started a new one for her, and Maisie has her own booklet on the go as well.’’
Following Mr Millar’s death, the 1000 Books Before School project has been picked up by Mrs Thomas, who is keen to ensure its ongoing success.
‘‘As a club, we are keen to keep developing the programme and to expand it as far and wide as possible,’’ she said.