The group that gives free monthly books to Maine 1st graders is growing

Dirigo Reads was founded by a local couple with the goal of providing every first grader in Maine with a brand new book, every month of the school year.

How did the idea for this program come about?

Dan and Karen Cashman (yes, the Nite Show guy) both grew up with parents who worked in libraries, so they always had access to books. So it had an impact on them when their daughter came home from school one day and said she wanted to lend one of her books to a friend who didn’t have any books of her own. Dan told me in an interview that his daughter’s generosity helped launch the idea for Dirigo Reads.

Every child should be lucky enough to have books they fall in love with and read over and over again in their own home.

How many schools participate in Dirigo Reads?

This nonprofit, run by the Cashmans, originally set a goal of providing a brand new book every month to every first grader in the state of Maine by 2025. Of course, the pandemic has slowed things down a bit, but not as much as you might think. They were still able to have the books shipped to participating schools, who then sent them home to the children when classes were not in session. Currently, 51 schools in more than 40 communities receive books through the Dirigo Reads program, serving 13 of Maine’s 16 counties.

Can more schools sign up to receive the books?

Now the campaign is underway to include schools in at least one more county for the next school year. School administrators interested in having their first-grade classes participate in the program can contact Dan and Karen through the organization website. Obviously, this type of major project requires some financial support and, even if the organization has many corporate partners, it can always use a few more.

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