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Books and bundt cakes

By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos courtesy of Mindy Burns

Photo of Graham Burns

Graham Burns has short books memorized and makes up his own version of stories based on the illustrations. Mom, Mindy said, “Sometimes his version is better!”

Of the 500 books Graham Burns has “read” so far, his favorite is That’s Not My Elephant… or any of the Usborne touchy-feely books by Fiona Watt. Graham is 4 1/2 years old, and with his mom’s help, he has taken on the 1000 Books before Kindergarten Challenge.

1000 Books before Kindergarten is a national initiative that encourages regular reading to babies and toddlers to increase their potential for learning success. It is not just for kindergarten, but for success in elementary school and beyond.

Community resident Mindy Burns (Graham’s mom) loves reading and has other children who are strong readers, so it came as a bit of a surprise to her when Graham wouldn’t sit still for even a few minutes to read a book together. Burns saw the 1000 Books before Kindergarten Challenge at the Douglas County Libraries – Castle Pines in April and decided to try it with Graham. Burns didn’t think it was realistic that Graham would “read” 1,000 books before starting kindergarten in August of 2021, but Graham is already halfway there.

Graham absolutely loves bundt cakes from The Bundt Shoppe in Castle Pines, especially the frosting, so Burns got an idea for an incentive. Burns drew a cupcake in the 100 books read square on the paper reading log they had taped up in Graham’s bedroom. After the first time Graham got his reward of a small Bundt cake, he said he wanted to read more and would happily mark off books on his log and get excited about getting closer to the next 100 books read.

Graham Burns proudly stands in front of his reading log after reading 500 books with his parents as part of the 1000 Books before Kindergarten Challenge, a nationwide initiative to encourage reading to babies and toddlers.

Burns said, “At 500 books read, I asked Graham if he would like to get something else, like ice cream, but he said, no, the bundt cakes are his favorite.” While Burns admits she is “bribing with bundts,” she is proud of the independent “reader” Graham has become. Graham used to wait for Burns and her husband, Brian, to read to him at night. Now, Burns said she finds Graham in his room, sitting in his chair, talking through a book every day. “He couldn’t even sit still for one book with me last year, and now to see him finding books and choosing to look at them on his own for longer periods of time is just incredible.”

For more information about the 1000 Books before Kindergarten Challenge, visit There is a suggested list of books you can work through and every book read counts toward the goal, even if the same book is read several times. Attending virtual Storytime via Zoom counts too.



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