As another school year draws near, Island Readers & Writers (IRW) in Southwest Harbor is celebrating its 10th year of bringing innovative, book-centered programs to predominately remote schools across coastal Maine and Washington and Hancock counties.
While the seeds of the organization were planted and cultivated beginning in 2004, today it celebrates 10 years as a thriving nonprofit.
IRW’s programs augment the quality of children’s education by sparking imaginations, developing critical and reflective thinking skills, and expanding worlds through hands-on learning in natural history, science, literature, writing and art.
The organization works closely with teachers, school administrators, community leaders, Maine authors and illustrators, scientists, historians, and volunteers to ensure that its programs meet the individual needs and interests of the communities in which it serves.
“We believe that children who learn through reading and book-related experiences will be more engaged in their own education and will achieve a broader understanding of the world and their own potential,” founder and Executive Director Jan Coates said during IRW’s annual meeting and breakfast held Aug. 10 in Seal Cove. “We also believe in the promise that lies within every child, regardless of their socioeconomic background.”
A decade ago, IRW visited four outer island schools and donated 112 author-signed books to schoolchildren. Last year, IRW donated 3,231 inscribed books to students in 24 different schools from Cliff Island to Lubec, and nearly two dozen schools in between.
IRW’s growth over the past couple of years has been exponential and there are immediate plans to expand its offerings.
This year, two more schools — Ella Lewis School in Steuben and Woodland Elementary School in Baileyville — will become IRW partners for a total of 26 schools served and in the 2018-2019 school year, two more schools will be added to the program.
In addition to the author and/or illustrator school visits, IRW hosts a number of special literature-based programs throughout the year for the young readers of Mount Desert Island.
Starting this fall, students at Pemetic Elementary School in Southwest Harbor will have a chance to participate in selecting their own winners for the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious prize in children’s literature.
The Mock Newbery program will allow children to read at least five prize contenders outside of the classroom, become involved in lunchtime discussion groups and ultimately select their own Newbery award winner.
This fall, seventh graders in each of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) schools will all read the acclaimed “Wolf Hollow” by Lauren Wolk and come together on Oct. 20 for the annual Seventh Grade Read.
Students will have the opportunity to collaborate with peers from different MDIRSS schools as well as community volunteer facilitators.
IRW relies on the time and generosity of volunteers, who help make its programs run smoothly.
For more information on IRW or how to get involved as a volunteer, visit islandreadersandwriters.org or call 244-5111.