Who are we? Island Readers & Writers (IRW) has been “inspiring a passion for reading and learning among children living on Maine’s coastal and inland islands” since 2006. Formalized as a non-profit in 2007, IRW provides innovative reading programs for children living in these unique places. We want to engage all children in hands-on book-related programs that encourage an excitement about reading and the creativity and discovery it inspires.

What do we currently do? IRW provides three book-centered programs: one is for kids in their schools, one is for kids in their libraries during the summer/after school, and the other is for kids, their families and community members, reading and learning together.

  1. Our “Island Book & Author Program” takes Maine children’s book authors and illustrators to coastal and “inland” islands. The children interact closely with authors and illustrators and participate in hands-on workshops and book-centered activities that bring great stories to life. Our programs use stories as portals for children to explore, discover, imagine, and learn about the “why of things.” We work collaboratively with local teachers, with preparation from us, to integrate our visits into on-going lesson plans, emphasizing creative art and writing activities, as well as history, science, and other topics related to a book’s specific content. Each child receives a book that is personally inscribed by the author.
  2. Our second program, called “Friends Over Books,” is a summer program. In this, book-loving adults read with and discuss carefully selected theme-oriented books, with individuals and groups of children, ages 9-14 at island libraries. Skits, demonstrations, field trips and author visits are part of this six-week program. Copies of the books to be read by the group are provided to each child. This program will be piloted in selected Maine libraries with the goal of developing it into an after-school enrichment  experience for young readers called BookGear.
  3. Our third program called “Community Outreach” focuses on large events that bring together people of all ages to celebrate reading. We seek to build supportive and healthy reading communities that encourage kids to love reading by sharing with families and community members the book-related activities and programs that bring a story to life. IRW’s National Endowment For the Arts (NEA) Big Read event “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” held in Jan-Feb 2012 drew 1290 + readers for a monthlong program involving seven island communities, 11 libraries, 25 non-profits, two school districts, and 100 miles of coastline, and is one example of our Community Outreach. IRW has received two grants (2009, 2011) from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest – one of only five recipients in New England.

Our office is located at 246 Main Street in Southwest Harbor. Please drop in and learn more “about us.”

Staff:  Jan Coates, Executive Director and Board Member

Ruth Feldman, Program Director

Jenna Beaulieu, Office Administrator & Communications Coordinator

Alison Johnson, Program Assistant in Washington County