You have been challenged…the ‘Read to ME Challenge’ has launched

Maine’s First Lady launched the Read to ME Challenge this week reflecting on how she and her kids would pack their bags to go to the local library for the afternoon. “It was a routine we all looked forward to. With demands of daily life, it was sometimes difficult to find time to sit and read, but we always made it a priority.”

In speaking with military families at the Blaine House, Mrs. LePage said, “As a mother, I always believed in the importance of early childhood literacy as it pertained to my children’s success in life.”

Acting Education Commissioner Bill Beardsley got a chuckle from the children when he said, “I remember my dad falling asleep reading to me in the evening.” He went on, “I grew to love reading, I love reading to my kids and grandkids, reading is a wonderful gift.”

In following the spirit of the Read to ME Challenge, The First Lady issued the challenge to the Barbara Bush Foundation and Maine’s Adjutant General, Colonel Douglas Farnum. Additionally, Governor Paul LePage extended challenges, via a letter, to Acting Education Commissioner Beardsley, Maine Public Broadcasting Network and the Maine State Library.

In turn, Beardlsey through the Maine DOE Facebook page, has challenged all State Commissioners, The State Literacy Team, Educate Maine, the State Board of Education, his Department team leaders, and all Maine educators.

The First Lady went on to read two books, Night Catch and Baxter in the Blaine House, to her captive audience. Once the children were teased with brilliant illustrations of the Blaine House, they were offered the chance to explore and see some of the rooms depicted in the story book.

The Maine DOE’s Read to ME Challenge runs now through March 2, which is Read Across America Day. Literacy Specialist Lee Anne Larsen wants the momentum to last all month long. “With 75 plus challenge partners to help kick off this campaign that is aligned with the national Read Aloud for 15 minutes campaign, our goal is to see this effort go viral. We have libraries, schools, organizations and more who will be accepting and extending the challenge as the month goes on and encourage everyone to get involved.”

The challenge is quite simple. You are encouraged to read with a child for at least 15 minutes, capture a photo or video, post it on social media with the hash tags #ReadtoME or #ReadaloudME, and nominate others to do the same. Creative ways of completing the challenge are encouraged – for example, video chat such as FaceTime or Skype can be used for adults who live a distance from a child. If preferred, you can complete the challenge by listening to audiobooks with a child.

“The enthusiasm has been building since even before the launch with schools planning innovative ways for students and their local communities to get involved, libraries incorporating the challenge into ongoing programming and vacation week activities and civic organizations encouraging their members to get involved. The Portland Public Schools even translated campaign flyers into a multitude of languages to advertise,” said Larsen. “I even received an email from an American working in Romania, where reading aloud to children is not a common practice, who learned about our campaign and wants to use it there.”

Come March 2, the reading does not end though. Another Maine reading challenge is the Read ME Agriculture program conducted each March since 2008 by Maine Agriculture in the Classroom. Volunteer readers interested in reading to a Pre K-4 class from this year’s feature book “Potatoes for ME,” are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible in order to provide time for the book and activity book to be ordered: http://www.agclassroom.org/me/programs/readme.htm.

Once each volunteer has completed reading this book to their classroom, the book will be left in the school’s library for future students to enjoy. For more information, contact Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Executive Director Willie Sawyer Grenier at 287-5522, maitca@maine.gov.

You can reach Maine DOE’s Lee Anne Larsen at leeann.larsen@maine.gov to learn more about Maine DOE’s Read to ME Challenge. Go ahead, take the challenge!