Priority Notice: 2nd Round of Grant Funds Available to Support the Expansion of Public Pre-K

As part of the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, Governor Mills allocated $10 million of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds appropriated for Maine for public pre-k infrastructure to increase the number of 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-k across the state. For the 2022-23 school year, 12 SAUs were awarded funding to expand or start new pre-k programs.

The Maine DOE is excited to announce another round of public pre-k expansion funding for school year 2023-24.

Currently, public pre-k in Maine is not universally available for all 4-year-olds. While the cognitive and social-emotional benefits of high-quality pre-k are well documented, there are a variety of factors that contribute to the ability of School Administrative Units (SAUs) to offer public pre-k and the extent to which they can enroll all eligible 4-year-olds from interested families. This funding will help expand pre-k opportunities across Maine.

Maine SAUs interested in starting or expanding public pre-k are encouraged to apply for funding through the Pre-K Expansion Request for Applications (RFA). SAUs will be able to use the funding, in combination with Essential Programs and Services allocations, to start new pre-k programs and/or expand existing programs from part-day/part-week to full-day/full-week programs. Funding may also support public pre-k programming through partnerships between SAUs and community providers.

A timeline for the RFA process is provided below.

  • August 5, 2022–RFA released
  • August 23, 2023–Informational session for interested parties, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
  • September 22, 2022-RFA question submittal deadline
  • September 30, 2022—RFA answers to questions posted publicly
  • October 13, 2022—RFA submission deadline

An informational meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 23 from 10 am-12 pm. Those wishing to learn more about the Pre-K Expansion RFA and ask questions may attend through this link. This meeting will be recorded and made available on our Early Childhood Professional Learning and Resources page.

For the 12 SAUs previously awarded grants in the first round, there will be a separate opportunity to apply for additional funding to support current projects later in fall of 2022 or winter of 2023.

All questions about the Pre-K Expansion RFA should be submitted to the Pre-K Expansion Grant Coordinator identified on the Grant RFPs and RFAs webpage.

Additional questions regarding this announcement should be directed to Pre-K RFA Coordinator jane.kirsling@maine.gov.

WEBINAR: Screening for Early Literacy Milestones, Dyslexia, and other Reading Disabilities

Dr. Nadine Gaab will host a webinar, “Screening for Early Literacy Milestones, Dyslexia, and other Reading Disabilities: The WHY, WHEN, WHO, HOW and WHERE on  September 28, 2022 from 3:30-4:30 pm

Audience: General & Special Educators, Administrators, Parents, Caregivers and Community Members Interested in Early Literacy, Dyslexia & Reading Disabilities

Cost: FREE please register for ZOOM Link here

This session will address:

  • Screening for literacy milestones and reading disabilities, including developmental dyslexia in early grades (pre-K-2nd)
  • The WHY behind the screening movement with a strong focus on the neurobiology of reading development and reading disabilities.
  • The ‘Dyslexia Paradox’
  • Important constructs to screen for with a developmental lens
  • Practical steps for implementing a screening protocol in various educational or clinical settings.
  • Different screening instruments and criteria for picking the right screener
  • Educational and clinical implications of screening and early identification in young children.

About the Presenter: Dr. Nadine Gaab is an Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Nadine’s work focuses on developmental cognitive neuroscience, particularly in language-based learning disabilities. Her research in the GaabLab examines the development of typical and atypical language and literacy skills in the pediatric brain and pre-markers of learning disabilities and the development of screening tools for screening literacy milestones and dyslexia.

She is the 2019 recipient of the LDA Award (Learning Disabilities Association America) for her work on learning disabilities. In 2018, Nadine was presented with the Allan C. Crocker Award for her advocacy on behalf of children with dyslexia and reading disabilities and efforts around the recent passage of the Massachusetts screening legislation (under the guidance of Decoding Dyslexia MA). She has also been recognized by the International Dyslexia Association in her receipt of the Norman Geschwind Memorial lecture 2020 and the Alice H. Garside Award for outstanding leadership in advancing the science and advocacy of dyslexia. She is an international speaker, frequently presenting to teachers on the brain science of typical and atypical literacy development.

If there are additional questions please email Tracy (Tracy.W.Whitlock@maine.gov), Anne-Marie Adamson (Anne-Marie.Adamson@maine.gov_) or Dee Saucier (danielle.m.saucier@maine.gov).

Governor Mills Announces Statewide Expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Maine

During a virtual discussion with iconic singer-songwriter Dolly Parton at the National Governor’s Association today, Governor Janet Mills announced that the State of Maine is launching a statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 2023.

The Imagination Library of Maine will mail high-quality, age appropriate books to children from birth until age five every month, no matter their family’s income. The program is dedicated to improving the lives of children by inspiring a love of reading with books, and is free to enrolled children and families.

As part of the recent bipartisan budget, Governor Mills proposed, and the Legislature approved, a $200,000 investment to implement the program, which will be administered by the Maine State Library. Together, The Dollywood Foundation and the Maine State Library will develop an implementation strategy this year with local libraries, community non-profits, the Maine Department of Education, and school systems – to establish and expand the program in the coming years. By the end of 2023, the State of Maine and the Imagination Library hope to have sent an initial 106,000 books to more than 14,000 children across Maine.

Maine is the 13th state to commit to achieving statewide coverage of the program.

“We know the simple act of reading to a child stimulates brain development, reduces stress and anxiety, builds vocabulary, and develops the literacy skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Today, we are taking another step forward to help make that happen by delivering books free of charge to Maine kids. Maine is proud to join the family of states that participate in the Imagination Library. On behalf of all Maine children who will be served by this program in the years to come, I thank the one-and-only Dolly Parton.”

“The Maine State Library is excited to be able to administer this program that will eventually connect tens of thousands of families and Maine children with wonderful books sent right to their homes,” said State Librarian James Ritter. “Working with Maine’s libraries and other organizations, we will have the opportunity to foster and grow generations of young readers through the Imagination Library, and for every child that learns to read, we know we are helping to build a community of lifelong learners.”

The Imagination Library builds on the Mills Administration’s commitment to increasing childhood literacy in Maine, including investing $10 million through the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to create and expand pre-school programs across Maine.

The Administration is also creating “Literacy for ME 2.0” to revamp its statewide literacy plan and the Maine Association for Improving Literacy to mobilize a network of educators who are committed to supporting statewide literacy efforts.

This summer, the Maine Department of Education will also be hosting its first ever Educator Summit to train our teachers in the most effective, evidence-based practices for increasing childhood literacy. Every year, the Department also sponsors the statewide “Read to Me” challenge to encourage adults to read to their children.

In 2019, about 57 percent of fourth grade students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch scored below proficiency reading levels while 33 percent of students who are not eligible for free or reduced lunch scored below proficiency reading levels. However, Maine is ranked fifth in the nation for the percentage of parents with children aged 0 to 5 who read to their children every day (46.9 percent).

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library in 1995 as a way to distribute books to the impoverished Tennessee county where she grew up. The State of Tennessee quickly adopted the program statewide, and, since then, the nonprofit program has expanded into five countries. As of June 2022, the Imagination Library has gifted 184,615,046 books with over 2 million kids currently registered.

According to The Dollywood Foundation, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of five, making that time period critically important for their development that can be enhanced by reading books. The Foundation notes that daily readings by parents or caregivers provide the greatest opportunity to prepare their child for school and that literacy is a major social determinant of health and economic impact in the long-term.

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has gifted well over 182 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland. The Imagination Library mails more than 2 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to enrolled children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring children to dream more, learn more, care more and be more. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For more information, please visit imaginationlibrary.com

Registration for Statewide Early Childhood Education Conference is Now Open

This year’s annual statewide Early Childhood Education Conference, Connecting Early Childhood Education; Birth through Eight Across the State has been organized through a collaboration of early learning partners, including the Maine Department of Education (DOE). The conference will be held on October 28th and 29th at the Cross Center in Bangor.

Breakout sessions for Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd grade educators will include a wide range of topics that focus on trauma informed practices as well as practical tools for supporting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging to foster communities. Other sessions will offer support on social-emotional learning through literacy and language, mindful leadership, building bridges with child care programs to ease the transition to Kindergarten, the power of play, early intervention for dyslexia, math for all learners and engaging with families. Speakers and presenters will focus on best practices in early learning for all those working with children from birth through early elementary years.

Information about sponsorship and/or exhibitor opportunities can be accessed here.

Come for one day or come for both!  Cost of attendance is $100.00 per person per day and will include a continental breakfast, lunch, a keynote address each day, over 50 breakout sessions from which to choose, an exhibitor hall, networking opportunities and chances to connect with peers.

How to register:

  1. Please visit the conference website: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/maine-early-childhood-education-conference-tickets-347892053497
  2. Click on the green button that says Tickets and a pop-up window will open.
  3. This registration process will secure you a ticket to one or two days of the 2022 Statewide ECE Conference. Participants will select breakout sessions for the conference at a later date.

Please contact the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children with any questions or concerns related to registration by emailing info@maineaeyc.org  or by calling 207-747-2490.

For other questions, contact Maine DOE’s Early Childhood Specialist, Nicole Madore at nicole.madore@maine.gov.

Space Still Available for Leading Early Learning Series

Applications for the Leading Early Learning Series will be accepted through July 5.  School administrators who support the PreK to Grade 3 span are strongly encouraged to explore this dynamic professional learning opportunity.

Leading Early Learning—A Professional Learning Series for Elementary School Administrators

 “Participating in the series has helped me to look at the decisions we make about our instructional programming and school community through the lens of early learning and what is developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners.” – Quote from Cohort 1 participant

As Maine elementary schools have added preschool programming and are promoting whole child approaches across the Pre-K -Grade 3 span, elementary principals have requested professional learning to support their work as educational leaders.  The Maine Department of Education and several Maine educational organizations (listed below) have collaborated to design an exciting professional learning series to address identified needs and support professional growth.  The Leading Early Learning series was piloted with 16 administrators in 2021-22 and we are pleased to announce the second cohort for this series will launch during the 2022-23 school year.

The series will not only provide participants with opportunity to deepen their knowledge of early learning pedagogy and best practices related to supporting students and teachers across Pre-K-3, but it will also provide a professional learning network, opportunity to design a concept for an implementation project, and be supported through facilitated discussions.  Participants will engage in a variety of modes of learning, from asynchronous modules to professional learning communities to attendance at a statewide early learning conference.

If this opportunity interests you, please review the details for the series in the informational guideA link to apply for the series is included in the informational guide.  The series will support up to 25 participants.  Applications will be received through July 5, 2022. Once spaces are filled, a waiting list will be generated.

For additional information, please contact Lee Anne Larsen, Director of Early Learning at Maine DOE, leeann.larsen@maine.gov.

Leading Early Learning Partner Organizations

  • Maine Department of Education
  • Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network
  • Maine Association for the Education of Young Children
  • UMaine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies