BANGOR, ME – (June 11, 2021) – 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 24 schools that will participate in the program during the next school year. This brings the total number of participating schools to 50 for the 2021-2022 school year, and nearly doubles the number of estimated first graders in Maine to receive new books every month through the program.
“Last year, Dirigo Reads gave out more than 8,000 books to first graders in Maine,” said Karen Cashman, co-founder of Dirigo Reads. “In the span of two school years, Dirigo Reads has put more than 11,300 books in the hands of Maine kids. We are excited to continue seeing this program grow thanks to the enthusiasm of the schools, teachers, kids, parents, and the partners involved with this program.”
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. It began in 2019 with six communities and will grow to include 50 schools during the 2021-2022 school year. Estimates on the number of students enrolled in the schools will bring the program from serving approximately 800 students each month to approximately 1600 students each month starting in the fall.
“This year’s list of new schools includes what will be the two largest cities in the program so far, Bangor and Auburn,” said Dan Cashman, co-founder of Dirigo Reads. “Three new counties are also joining the program for the first time this year. Schools in Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Franklin Counties will be participating starting in September, meaning that Dirigo Reads will be distributing free books to first graders every month of the school year in 13 of Maine’s 16 counties.”
Dirigo Reads is operationally supported by United Way of Eastern Maine, and the founding Dirigo Star partner is Machias Savings Bank.
“This last school year was so different for so many kids all over the state,” said Larry Barker, president and CEO of Machias Savings Bank. “Thanks to Dirigo Reads, many first graders in Maine were able to receive a book of their own each month. This program is creating the foundation for strong readers which relates to a stronger education. Machias Savings Bank is proud to be a part of this program, and happy to know more students will improve reading skills with the expansion of additional schools in the coming year.”
Additional partners of Dirigo Reads include, Bangor Savings Bank, Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications, Northern Light Health, Changing Seasons Federal Credit Union, Woodlands Senior Living, PCHC, United Way of Eastern Maine, Cross Insurance, Acadia Federal Credit Union, Hannaford, The First, and WS Emerson. Additional partners are necessary for the program to reach more first graders.
“Thanks to such amazing partners, Dirigo Reads is able to double the number of students getting books, even during a pandemic,” said Dan Cashman. “If we are going to meet the goal of including every community and public school in Maine by 2025, we have to continue to build support with businesses. There are lots of options from which to support Dirigo Reads for both large and small businesses, and we will continue to reach out to potential partners. But we are frequently asked how people can help, and the most significant way to help this program is to connect us with a business looking to put some money toward a very worthwhile effort.”
There are about 12,000 first graders enrolled in Maine public schools. Dirigo Reads provided books to about 6% of this population in the last school year, and will increase to about 13.5% of first graders in Maine for the 2021-2022 school year.
Communities participating in Dirigo Reads for the 2020-2021 school year are listed below (schools that participated the previous year are italicized):
Auburn (new – 5 schools)
Mechanic Falls (new)
Bangor (new – 5 schools)
Mt. Vernon (new)
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.
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.