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 looking to increase the number of schools that will participate in the program during the next school year. Dirigo Reads co-founder Dan Cashman says that a final call for new schools to be considered for the 2023-2024 school year is happening now.
“Of the dozens of schools currently involved in this program, we have heard nothing but great feedback,” said Cashman. “This is all about fostering a love for reading, and improving literacy rates in the process. Teachers, parents, and kids have reached out over the years expressing their love for this program, and we believe it’s making a difference.”
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. Eighty-five schools spread over all 16 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. For this school year, Dirigo Reads distributed nearly 29,000 books to first graders in Maine. 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. “So, while we are planning to add schools for the next school year, it will be a slightly more competitive year to get in. I would encourage any school that wants to be a part of this program to apply on our website as soon as possible, as we’ll be announcing additional schools very soon.”
Dirigo Reads has been operationally supported by United Way of Eastern Maine, and the 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.
“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. Currently, Dirigo Reads is providing books to about 25.3% 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.