Read to ME Challenge gone viral

It’s not an ice bucket challenge but some have taken it to that extreme as Maine takes on the challenge…the Read to ME Challenge. Since the February 2 launch, The Maine Department of Education’s literacy awareness campaign has gone viral which was the hope at its inception.

Buxton Elementary School Principal Kim O’Donnell nominated 600 students across 38 classrooms to complete the challenge. The incentive there was the principal would be doused with ice water. That challenge has now been extended to the Buxton community.

Buxton Ice bucket
Buxton Elementary School Principal Kim O’Donnell accepting the bone-chilling outcome of her entire school completing the Read to ME Challenge.

In Rumford, the Mountain Valley High School Boys Basketball team took the Read to ME Challenge to the kindergarten class and in turn the team extended the challenge to the Mountain Valley High School Girls Basketball team.

In South Hiram, members of the National Honor Society accepted the challenge and read to elementary students.

Maine School Administrative District 74 Superintendent Kenneth Coville accepted the challenge and read to second graders at North Anson Elementary School before issuing the challenge to school board members. MSAD 74’s Literacy Specialist Lisa Savage has been busily issuing challenges to encourage reading by the middle school girls and their adult mentors and has lined up two author visits for district schools. Savage says, “What is more fun than reading to a child?”

The Auburn Public Library held a preschool story time. Children ages three to five gathered for stories, songs, a craft and an opportunity to complete and extend the challenge. Across town at the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA, management and families have been challenged and encouraged to come read with children attending programs at the facility.

In Rockland, middle school students have taken part in the challenge by partnering with younger readers as “Book Buddies.” ELA educator Kim Freeman Meuse says, “The littles bring books they would like the older kids to read to them, as well as books that the littles read to the seventh graders. It has been an empowering experience for both grade levels.”

Maine’s Teachers of Year have gotten busy with the challenge, too, and used last week’s snow day to encourage reading.

The UNE Education Club is hosting a reading night in Biddeford this month, reading with kindergarteners and their families. Everyone is encouraged to wear their pajamas. There are two reading sessions planned and a parent session on how to make the most out of reading aloud with children.

UMF President taking the challenge
UMF President reading with children at the campus’ preschool/daycare.

The president of the University of Maine Farmington has caught on to the challenge. Kate Foster read to the University’s preschool and daycare children.

Another Read to ME Challenge connection to UMF is Director of Educational Outreach Sandy McArthur. A member of the MDOE’s State Literacy Team, she conceived of the idea of the challenge, which is living beyond its expectation.

Adults reading with children build bonds, and that is why Portland’s Mayor and Police Chief have been challenged, says Amy Pichette, the director of the Portland LearningWorks AfterSchool programs. “Reading aloud exposes children to the world around them, and helps them to see reading as an enjoyable and valuable activity.”

Maine Air National Guard got the challenge from Brigadier General Douglas Farnham who was challenged by Mrs. Ann LePage, and he in turn challenged Maine’s guard. Maine’s First Lady also challenged The Barbara Bush Foundation. Barbara Bush Foundation issued to Teen Trendsetter programs across Maine.

All across the state and even among the Maine DOE staff, there is a buzz about reading with children this month by accepting and extending the challenge either in schools or with family and friends.

reading instead of brushing
Reading diverted this one’s nightly routine of brushing her teeth.

Maine DOE Literacy Specialist Lee Anne Larsen says, “The enthusiasm that has been generated with his campaign has been phenomenal. This kind of experience also builds a strong learning community and also provides older learners with an opportunity to mentor younger children.” Joining MPBN’s Maine Calling, Larsen and the Maine State Library’s Early Literacy Specialist, Shannon Schinagl shared more examples of ways to engage children in reading as well as suggestions for how Mainers can accept the challenge.

The Read to ME Challenge continues through March 2 concluding on Read Across America Day, but Larsen encourages us to take the challenge every day. “Reading with children is one of the most inexpensive yet highly valuable gifts we can give to children. Not only does it build strong literacy skills and knowledge of the world, but it also forges bonds with trusted adults and creates positive memories that last a lifetime.”

For more information about the Read to ME Challenge, contact Maine DOE Literacy Specialist Lee Anne Larsen at leeann.larsen@maine.gov.