Dirigo Reads program to add over 1,000 students next year 

BANGOR — Dirigo Reads, a program that aims to give a book to every Maine first grader each month during the school year by 2025, is adding 36 participating schools next year. This brings the total number of schools to 87 for the 2022-2023 school year and increases the number of estimated first graders in Maine to receive new books every month through the program by approximately 1,200 students. 

Hancock County communities participating in Dirigo Reads for the 2022-2023 school year are Hancock, Castine, Swan’s Island, Lamoine, Sullivan, Trenton, Aurora (new) and Surry (new). 

“Last year, Dirigo Reads gave out more than 15,000 books to first graders in Maine,” said Karen Cashman, co-founder of the program. “In the span of three school years, Dirigo Reads has put more than 27,000 books in the hands of Maine kids. With the addition of 36 more schools spread over 22 communities, that number will continue to grow.” 

The program began in 2019 with six communities. Estimates on the number of students enrolled in the schools will bring the program from serving approximately 1,600 students each month to about 2,800 students each month starting in the fall. 

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

“Dirigo Reads went from a pilot program in ‘normal’ times to a program that is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of first graders during uncertain times,” said Larry Barker, president and CEO of Machias Savings Bank. “We knew immediately that Dirigo Reads would be an important part of first graders’ lives once it got started, but we couldn’t have predicted just how important it would become for kids all over the state.” 

Other partners of the program 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, Hannaford and The First. Additional partners are necessary for the program to reach more first graders. 

There are about 12,000 first graders enrolled in Maine public schools. Dirigo Reads provided books to about 13 percent of this population in the last school year and will increase to about 23.2 percent of first graders in Maine for the 2022-2023 school year.


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