Read to ME Challenge engaged all ages and more

Teachers have challenged students, boys’ sports teams have challenged girls’ sports teams, town managers have challenged police chiefs, grandmothers have challenged grandchildren, librarians have challenged Rotarians, and the list goes on demonstrating the many varied ways in which Maine accepted the Read to ME Challenge. The Challenge began with the First Lady reading with a group of children at the Blaine House and then the Challenge took off.

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The Portland Seadogs’ mascot, Slugger, even got in on the action as Slugger and the Sea Dogs realize the value of reading and encourage students to read.

Throughout this past month, the Maine Department of Education has received incredible illustrations of positive ways in which literacy can be promoted, and examples of the value found in reading with a child for 15 minutes a day. Here is just a sampling of ways in which the Challenge has unfolded.

In Gardiner, the high school partnered with the Gardiner Public Library for the Read to ME Challenge. Debra Butterfield, a middle school and high school teacher-librarian in SAD 11 says, “It has been a busy but thrilling month…a highlight was having Wes McNair, Maine Poet Laureate, read to our students. A school board member came in and read to students too.” In addition, upperclassmen read with freshmen. Evidence of these activities and more can be seen on the Gardiner Area High school’s web page.

The Kennebec Journal captured some of the momentum: http://www.centralmaine.com/2016/02/26/gardiner-among-local-schools-to-participate-in-read-to-me-challenge/.

The Sun Journal followed the Challenge in Leeds which involved other guest readers from the community: http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2016/02/29/hockey-player-cop-and-vet-share-importance-reading-leeds-students/1881022.

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UNE’s bedtime story night for Kindergarten students

Dr. Lane Clarke’s teacher education students at the University of New England planned a bedtime story night for Kindergarten students and their parents at JFK Elementary School in Biddeford. While the education students read to students who came in their pajamas, Dr. Clark provided an informational session about the benefits of reading with children and engaging methods for doing so.

Betsy York from SAD 42 was excited to share the picture of her 8-year-old granddaughter reading to her new baby sister who barely 12 hours old at the time. She says, “The books were from a bag of books given to infants.  How wonderful is that?”

Maine’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, Shelly Moody, stressed the value of reading aloud with a child for 15 minutes a day. Her story was in the Bangor Daily News.

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Betsy York’s granddaughter reads to her new baby sister

Maine DOE’s Social Studies Specialist Kristie Littlefield recently completed the Read to ME Challenge, reading I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez to kindergartners at her alma mater, Hartland Consolidated School.

Kristie fell in love with reading, thanks to her second grade teacher and principal, Mrs. Kimball.  Kristie challenged members of the Maine Council for the Social Studies, the Maine Geographic Alliance, the Maine Humanities Council, and the Maine Historical Society.

And so the Challenge continued…

Maine’s Read to ME Challenge concluded on Read Across America Day, the National Education Association’s annual celebration of reading that honors the March 2nd birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss. This is the 19th year of the national program that engages an estimated 45 million educators, parents, and students nationwide with school and community celebrations coast to coast.

But the reading should not, and will not, stop here.

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RSU 74 Lisa Savage and MEA President Lois-Kilby Chesley celebrate Read Across America Day

The national Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign holds its winter pulse period during the month of March.  The theme of March pulse period is “Read to me. Any age. Any stage.” Maine DOE is a pulse partner and strongly encourages all Maine citizens to read with children 15 minutes a day.

Lee Anne Larsen, Literacy Specialist at the Maine DOE, advocates, “Reading with children is one of the most beneficial and cost effective methods of building children’s language and literacy skills. Being literate is no longer a cultural elective, but a cultural imperative.  Much higher levels of reading, writing, listening and speaking are needed in today’s world.  The Read to ME Challenge has demonstrated how many wonderful resources exist to support literacy education efforts across Maine, and underscore how we can all share in growing children’s literate abilities.”

Literacy Coach in Carrabec, RSU 74 Lisa Savage along with MEA President Lois-Kilby Chesley celebrated Read Across America Day. The Maine Education Association celebrates Read Across America each year with its MEA Cat Tracks program. During the month of March, MEA will provide books to every first grader in a public school in Maine.

In looking ahead, you can learn more about Maine writers and illustrators here: http://www.maine.gov/msl/maine/writers.htm.

The Maine Agriculture in the Classroom kicks in this month, too. Read “ME” Agriculture has been a very successful program since 2008, reaching over 74,000 Maine students.

the endThe Department’s summer reading initiative for school age children is in the planning stages. Stay tuned for more details as time nears.

As this year’s inaugural Read to ME Challenge comes to a close, this is the perfect time to reflect on the important role literacy plays in our daily lives. Larsen says, “Thank you to all who have engaged in the Read to ME Challenge.  Every minute of reading that children have gained through this effort will help exercise their minds and contribute to their learning.”

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