GRAND FORKS — Neither the coronavirus pandemic nor closure of the Grand Forks Public Library could stop Kinsley Schmidt from reading 1,000 books during the past year.

A year after Kinsley, 5, signed up for the library’s 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, she has reached her goal. Kinsley, with the help of her grandmother, Ginny Tupa, began the program in October 2019, checking out the limit of 50 books at a time.

“We could barely drag out the books from the library,” Tupa said.

Whenever Kinsley visited, Tupa read to her granddaughter, as many as four or five books a day, and another couple of books before bedtime during overnight stays.

By March, Kinsley was 25% of the way to her goal and had received four stickers for the 400 books she read.

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Kinsley and her grandmother were disappointed when the library closed in March, but, nonetheless, determined that they would find another way to find books to read.

“We read books online, bought books at the dollar store, books on Amazon,” Tupa said.

Book titles varied from Little Golden Books classics such as "Pinocchio," to “Willbee the Bumblebee,'' a Scholastic book, to famous character books, such as "Barbie."

Kinsey’s favorite thing to read about?

“Doggies and kitties,” Kinsley said.

“She checked out every doggy and kitty book from the public library,” Tupa said. ”She knows right where the sections are in the library."

Kinsley also enjoyed reading a book about being a sibling to a new baby. In May, her brother Alex was born. And like the book said, he cries, eats and often needs his diaper changed, Kinsley said.

5-year-old Kinsley Schmidt has finished reading 1,000 books before kindergarten with the help of her grandmother, Ginny Tupa, a longtime Grand Forks Public Schools library director. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
5-year-old Kinsley Schmidt has finished reading 1,000 books before kindergarten with the help of her grandmother, Ginny Tupa, a longtime Grand Forks Public Schools library director. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Tupa, a longtime Grand Forks Public Schools library director before she retired in 2015, encourages Kinsley and her other grandchildren to read because she believes, in this technological age, it is even more important to instill in them a love of books.

“It develops vocabulary, teaches them about places and relationships,” Tupa said. “I’m trying to get everybody interested in reading.”

Tupa started taking Kinsley to the library when she was 3, and now she has a hard time convincing her to leave when it’s time to go home, she said.

Meanwhile, Tupa, Kinsley and her older brother Camden, set up a Little Free Library in Leonard, N.D., this past summer, in an effort to encourage others to read. Tupa and Kinsley donated to the Leonard Little Free Library some of the books that their grandmother bought for Kinsley to read so she could reach the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program goal.

Though Kinsley didn’t reach the goal before kindergarten, she still will get a medal from the library for reading 1,000 books, said Aaron Stefanich, Grand Forks Public Library children’s librarian. Kinsley, like about a dozen other children enrolled in the program, deserve the recognition for persevering with their reading despite the library closure, he said.

Kinsley notified Stefanich of meeting her 1,000 books goal via a photograph of herself with her pages of completed stickers enclosed with a letter she wrote to him.

“I did it. My grandma read a thousand books to me,” the letter reads.

Kinsley, now a kindergartener at Viking Elementary School in Grand Forks, is learning to read by herself. Tupa helps her with that during their reading time.

“They get two library books from school, and, right away, she’ll get them out and ask me to read them,” Tupa said.

Given Kinsley’s love of reading, it’s not surprising that her reply to a question inquiring about her favorite part of her school day, is a one-word answer.

“Library,” she said, her face buried in a book.