Education

Dirigo Reads to add schools for 2021-22

BANGOR, Maine — Dirigo Reads, a program that aims to put a book in the hands of every Maine first-grader each month during the school year by 2025, is looking to increase the number of schools that will participate in the program during the next school year. Dirigo Reads co-founders Dan and Karen Cashman of Brewer say that new schools are being solicited and considered for the 2021-22 school year now.

“Through the incredible business partners of Dirigo Reads, and excited teachers, parents, and kids at schools, we were able to grow Dirigo Reads during a very difficult year,” said Karen Cashman. “That growth needs to continue if Dirigo Reads is going to reach all first-graders in Maine by 2025. We’re excited to say that we will be able to bring more schools, communities, and kids into this program at the start of the next school year, and we look forward to opening the doors to Dirigo Reads to more students in the fall.”

Dirigo Reads’ mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of children in Maine through literacy and share a little optimism along the way. This is accomplished by giving first graders in participating schools a brand new book to keep during every month of the school year. Twenty-six communities spread over 10 counties are currently a part of Dirigo Reads. By the time the school year is finished, first graders in each of these communities will have ten new books to add to – or start – their own home library. Over two school years, Dirigo Reads will have distributed more than 9,500 books to first graders in participating schools.

“A love for reading starts at a young age,” said Dan Cashman. “The more all of us can do to encourage that love, the more likely the next generation will have every opportunity to succeed.”

Dirigo Reads is operationally supported by United Way of Eastern Maine, and the founding Dirigo Star partner is Machias Savings Bank. 

Additional partners of Dirigo Reads include Cross Insurance, Bangor Savings Bank, United Way of Eastern Maine, Northern Light Health, Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications, PCHC, Changing Seasons Federal Credit Union, Hannaford, Acadia Federal Credit Union, WS Emerson and The First. 

There are about 12,000 first-graders enrolled in Maine public schools, more than 300 of which contain first-grade classrooms. Currently, Dirigo Reads is providing books to about 7 percent of this population. 

Schools and businesses interested in being a part of Dirigo Reads should visit www.DirigoReads.org and click on “Contact,” where a form is available to submit all necessary information.

“Dirigo Reads received a tremendous amount of support in its first couple of years,” said Dan Cashman. “But in order for every first grader in Maine to receive a new book every month of the school year, we need to increase the number of partners involved.”

Any organizations interested in partnering with Dirigo Reads, or schools with first-grade classes that would like to join the program can find more details at www.DirigoReads.org.

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