IRW Spring 2014 Newsletter – Click on the photo to see the newsletter as it was mailed, or scroll down to read each of  the articles individually.


A Note from Executive Director Jan Coates

Well it was a long winter – a long, exciting one! – for IRW. We continued taking authors to schools up and down the coast, and to inland islands, too. We’re now working with 7 schools in Washington County, and plan to add 3 more in 2014. As spring crept in by inches, we were busy with our 2nd annual ARROW Retreat, more author visits, and planning a Community-wide Read featuring Newbery Medal winner Richard Peck in June. And we launched a fishy, new, highly collaborative program in Washington County, Fish Scales and Tales. Now, with summer almost upon us, we’re excited about our annual A Summer Morning in Maine event, welcoming a new program director, sharing an exciting video about IRW, and our plans for the fall and beyond. 

Everything we do is designed to inspire a passion for reading and learning among the children of Maine. And everything we do is made possible by you. Thank you for your continued support of Island Readers & Writers. As always, we welcome your comments, ideas and involvement.

Read on to find out what we’ve been up to, and what we’ve got planned next.

Very best,



Mark Your Calendars!

The 2014 IRW annual meeting and appreciation event, A Summer Morning in Maine, is set for August 7th at the home of the Flournoys on Mount Desert Island. We’ll be sending out invitations soon.


The Write Stuff

The children IRW works with often live in isolated communities and may never have a chance to meet “a real live author” without the help of IRW. So we make it our mission to provide enriching, fun book-centered programs. And who better to do that than the people who write the books?

We continued our popular Island Book and Author series through the winter and spring with the dynamic duo of Kim Ridley and Rebekah Raye; Newbery Honor winner Cynthia Lord; and music man Stephen Costanza.

Kim and Rebekah’s The Secret Pool – about the life in and around vernal pools – won the Lupine Award this spring and was a big hit with students in Vinalhaven, Stonington, Islesford and Frenchboro. “I like how they told the story about the story,” said one 4th-grader.

Cynthia traveled with us to Whiting and Beals Island to talk about Touch Blue and Hot Rod Hamster. And the kids there got their own copies of the books.

Steve struck the right chord with kids in Milbridge and Machiasport. We distributed copies of Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra, and Steve had the kids listening to Vivaldi’s “Four Season’s” and exploring various genres of music, playing imaginary stringed instruments and writing and illustrating stories of their own. It’s part of our new Literary Links to Music initiative – another example of how great stories lead to cross-disciplinary learning.


Looking Forward

+ Expand from 18 to 21 program sites by the end of 2014.

+ Strengthen existing partnerships and cultivate new ones.

+  Add a Regional Coordinator for Washington County.

+ Open an office in Washington County.

+ Develop more Literary Links to Science programs for grades 3-5.

+ Explore long-term options for a new permanent headquarters on MDI.

“The more we do,” said IRW’s Jan Coates, “the more we see what’s possible.”


Fish Scales & Tales

Something fishy happened up in Washington County this May thanks to IRW. We teamed with Lubec Memorial Library and Lubec Consolidated School for a whole month’s worth of finny fun. “It was the first time Lubec has done something of this breadth,” said IRW’s Jan Coates. Called Fish Scales and Tales: Exploring the Depths of Sea Life, it included programs with authors and scientists, open community discussions, and library exhibits showcasing the work of school children. Many months in the planning, it featured famed Maine author and boat captain Linda Greenlaw; artist Kristen McKinlay from the Tides Institutes & Museum of Art in Eastport; Mary Cerullo, an award-winning author of sixteen nonfiction books for children about the ocean for including City Fish, Country Fish; and Dr. Moira Brown, a whale specialist for the New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute. And dare we say? Yes, it went swimmingly.


Read Your Way Into Summer

Thanks to A Long Way from Chicago, it’s a very short distance between Mount Desert Island and tons of summer fun June 22, 23 & 24. IRW is spearheading a grand Community Read and bringing the one and only Richard Peck to MDI for it. Program partners include libraries in Bass Harbor, the Cranberry Isles, Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Seal Harbor, Somesville, Southwest Harbor and Swan’s Island; the MDI Regional School System; MDI Historical Society; and Sherman’s Books and Stationery.

The kick off is at the MDI High School with Mr. Peck, a Newbery Medal winner and author of many beloved books for children, sharing stories about A Long Way from Chicago. Over the next several days, 8 libraries, 6 schools and hundreds of readers young and old will enjoy different books by Mr. Peck and fun activities, some with the author himself. “We are very happy to be hosting an author of Richard Peck’s caliber thanks to IRW,” said Mae Corrion, children’s librarian with the Jesup Memorial Library.

Every single one of these programs is free and open to all. IRW is even providing free copies of A Long Way from Chicago through the libraries. IRW’s Jan Coates calls it an “extravaganza of creative book-centered programs.”


ARROW hits its mark

This April IRW found itself at the crossroads of art, science and writing with the 2nd annual ARROW Retreat. Middle graders gathered at the MDI BioLab for four exciting half days to explore the multidisciplinary nature of a good story, hone their observation, writing and illustrating skills with experts, and have a great time. All at no cost to them. They worked in the lab using microscopes and isolating DNA with Dr. Karen James. They went into the field to work with naturalist and award-winning science writer Kim Ridley (and met a grouchy grouse there too, but that’s another story). Kim helped them transfer their field experience onto the written page. Then another award-winning writer – children’s author Patrick Jennings – helped them explore the world of fiction and they wrote their own stories. ARROW Retreaters finished up with long-time IRW pal Rebekah Raye, yet another award-winning author who is also an artist and art teacher, and she helped them illustrate their stories. “It was,” said one 6th-grader, “Jah-Mazing!”


IRW is the Talk of the Town

IRW’s own Jan Coates and Jennifer Judd-McGee joined author (and IRW friend) Kim Ridley on WERU radio’s, “Talk of the Towns” program. Host Ron Beard got this terrific trio talking about the history and future of IRW, giving wider exposure to our mission of inspiring a passion for reading and learning. With the perspective of IRW’s executive director, a board member, and a participating author, a lot of ground was covered, not just about what’s happening but about why people are so drawn to IRW programs and eager to support them. Jennifer noted that with IRW, “enthusiasm is contagious.” And Jan explained that making a match between a program, a great story and an author who can talk with kids and not at kids can be a transformative experience. 

Listen to the whole one-hour program on our website at

This program was made possible by WERU Community Radio and University of Maine Cooperative Extension.