United Way, Katahdin Trust team up for summer reading

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The United Way of Aroostook has formed a partnership with Katahdin Trust Company to offer first-graders throughout Aroostook County a backpack with free books to read over the summer.

The two organizations have put together a program known as “The Summer Slide” to encourage children to continue reading throughout the summer, strengthening their reading fluency.

“Thanks to Katahdin Trust’s partnership, we are helping to ensure that our children are ready for reading and moving on to the next grade,” said Sherry Locke, executive director of United Way. “We didn’t want the long summer break to be a chance for children to lose what gains they made throughout the school year. We wanted to curb the typical ‘summer slide’ that can occur.”

The program also serves as an extension of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which puts a free book in the hands of preschoolers each month from the time they are born until age 5. In March, UWA sent out more than 2,130 books.

“Last summer United Way piloted the Summer Slide program with first-grade students at Pine Street Elementary School in Presque Isle,” explained Athena Hallowell, program and volunteer coordinator at United Way. “The program was such a success that we wanted to offer the program to first-graders across Aroostook County.”

School administrators throughout Aroostook have been invited to participate. Once the total number of students has been determined, United Way and Katahdin Trust employees will deliver the books to each participating school in early June.  

The partners will provide backpacks to the children at no cost to them or their families. Each pack will contain three books, some activities and other goodies. The activities will help children to engage with the books they were given. For each completed activity sheet returned to the United Way, children will have an opportunity to win one of several prizes such as a bike, puzzles and games. 

“We are so pleased to partner with United Way of Aroostook on this county-wide endeavor,” said Krista Putnam, vice president of marketing for Katahdin Trust. “This project reflects Katahdin Trust’s commitment to serve families living in northern, central and southern Aroostook County. Our employees are also excited to work with United Way to help deliver these books into the hands of approximately 700 first-graders throughout the region.

“We appreciate the opportunity to help encourage strong reading habits. The long-term benefits to these children and to Aroostook County are significant,” said Putnam.

At the end of the summer, United Way and Katahdin Trust will hold Summer Reading Celebration events in all three regions of The County to mark the end of summer and the start of a new school year. Organizers hope children will learn the love of reading and enjoy some fun activities geared around the books they have received.

For more information about Summer Slide or the United Way, contact their office at 764-5197.

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