The launch of a new program that aims to put a book in the hands of every Maine first grader each month during the school year by 2025 was announced today. Dirigo Reads is co-founded by Dan and Karen Cashman of Brewer and operationally supported by United Way of Eastern Maine. The mission of the program is to improve the health and wellbeing of children in Maine through literacy and share a little optimism along the way.

“We truly believe that every child should have the opportunity for a successful future,” explains Karen Cashman. “By providing children with a new book every month during the school year, doors are opened to a brighter future. Numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between literacy and feelings of self-worth, health status, and the ability to achieve a fulfilling career. Every child should have the foundation to build upon those opportunities.”

In September 2019, Dirigo Reads will begin to distribute age-appropriate reading materials to first graders at schools located in six towns: Brewer, Caribou, Castine (pending staff approval when school begins), Dover-Foxcroft, Machias, and Madison.

“When we first started approaching schools, we were not sure what kind of reception the idea would have, but we have been overwhelmingly pleased by the support we have received in each town so far,” shared Dan Cashman. “We are honored to have the privilege to work with each of these schools and look forward to adding more schools each year as the program matures and as we continue to partner with businesses throughout the state to make this goal a reality.”

Allison Kahkonen, a principal at Brewer Community School, says, “This program will undeniably make a difference in the lives of Maine children. The organizers and the sponsors backing this effort should know that they are giving children opportunities that will pay dividends for years.”

The founding Dirigo Star partner is Machias Savings Bank. 

“We are enormously grateful to have Machias Savings Bank join this effort as a Dirigo Star partner,” said Karen Cashman. “What that means is that Machias Savings Bank sees the value in investing in early literacy, and ultimately, investing in our children.”

“At Machias Savings Bank, we believe in giving everyone a better opportunity to succeed,” said Larry Barker, President and CEO of Machias Savings Bank. “We know that literacy rates in this state and around the country could be better, and we think Dirigo Reads provides a solid opportunity to do just that. There is no better investment we can make than an investment in our children, and we’re excited to see Dirigo Reads be able to include more towns and more children in its mission.”

Additional early supporters of Dirigo Reads include Cross Insurance, the United Way of Eastern Maine and Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications. 

“This effort takes a community,” said Dan Cashman. “We live in a community that is eager to give back in a meaningful way. That’s one of the best parts about living in Maine.”

Dirigo Reads will provide updates on the program’s progress during the year. 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