BANGOR, ME – 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 announcing the addition of 17 schools to the program, bringing the number of schools served by Dirigo Reads to more than 100, covering about ⅓ of first grade public school students in Maine.
“We are so excited to introduce more schools, more communities, and more families to Dirigo Reads,” said Dan Cashman, co-founder of Dirigo Reads. “There are 16 new communities being added to the program, spread over 15 counties in Maine. They range from large schools like the Kate Furbish Elementary School in Brunswick with 180 first graders, to smaller schools like the Palermo Consolidated School in Waldo County with nine first graders. The geographic footprint of this year’s additions is large, and we couldn’t be happier to see it touch so many parts of Maine.”
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. Last year, Dirigo Reads distributed nearly 29,000 books to the eighty-six schools involved in the program. Over four school years, Dirigo Reads has distributed about 55,000 books to first graders in participating schools.
“This year, we have spent the last several months making some structural, behind-the-scenes changes to the program, to ensure it is sustainable for many years to come,” said Cashman. “But the heart of the program remains the kids, and ensuring they have their own home library at the end of their first grade year with ten new books. The thank you letters we receive from kids, parents, and teachers alike are beyond heartwarming. That’s why this program will continue to thrive.”
With the new schools being added this year, Dirigo Reads has completed its first full coverage of a county. By adding Milo Elementary School, the program is now providing new books to all first graders in Piscataquis County.
Communities participating in Dirigo Reads for the 2023-2024 school year are listed below (schools that participated the previous year are italicized):
Mars Hill (New)
Old Town (New)
Edmunds Township (New)
Old Orchard Beach
Dirigo Reads founding Dirigo Star partner is Machias Savings Bank.
Additional partners of Dirigo Reads include Sutherland Weston, Bangor Savings Bank, the James and Betty Jacobs Charitable Trust, Casella, Northern Light Health, PCHC, Cross Insurance, Changing Seasons Federal Credit Union, Woodlands Senior Living, Hannaford, Versant, and The First, with additional partners set to be announced later this month.
“The partners involved with Dirigo Reads have made a difference in the lives of first graders,” said Cashman. “Support from partners in the business community is an absolute must for this program to continue to serve first graders in Maine.”
There are about 11,600 first graders enrolled in Maine public schools. With the additional schools for 2023-2024, there will be more than 850 new students added to the program, serving around 3,800 kids, or about 33% of first graders in Maine.
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.