The Island Book & Author Program inspires book-centered learning by bringing children’s book authors and illustrators and their books to children in IRW partner schools.

IRW collaborates with teachers and authors/illustrators to customize each program to the school’s needs and goals. Explore More Book Guides are created to inspire deep reading and engagement with a book’s content through suggested projects, research, place-based learning, and cross-curricular integration.

Each program culminates with a visit from the author/ illustrator, who then shares about their life and career, views and comments on student and school-wide book-inspired projects and creations, and leads small-group workshops in writing, art or natural history. A personalized copy of the featured book is given to each participating child, a treasured keepsake.

While these programs normally take place in-person, they were successfully offered as on-line experiences due to the 2020 pandemic.



Getting the Right Start: This school curriculum is designed for pre-school - grade two to actively engage children in story time and develop visual and cognitive literacy. It is based on the Whole Book Approach (WBA) developed by Megan Dowd Lambert at the Eric Carl Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass. WBA asks children to view picture books in their whole art form and uses Visual Thinking Strategy (VTS) to facilitate learner-centered discussion. This is done in a group setting using open ended questions to create a shared experience rich with opportunities for learning. Books used in the program are curated by IRW and provided to each classroom.

Professional Learning: IRW collaborates with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to introduce the Whole Book Approach in professional development workshops to teachers and childcare educators. Throughout the year, IRW provides coaching to the teachers as needed and together evaluates student learning outcomes.

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS): IRW draws on the foundations and applications of VTS in its various book-centered programs for all ages across all disciplines.

Professional Learning: IRW sponsors the opportunity for teachers to expand their VTS knowledge and facilitation skills through a workshop offered by WaterShed Collaborative. The goal is to help teachers expand their use of VTS beyond the WBA by exploring how the process supports learning in observation, description, evidence gathering, and argument building; literacy skills that are embedded across content areas through the Common Core Standards.

Director of School Programs, Alison Johnson is pursuing her VTS facilitator and coaching certification.



WordCraft is IRW’s virtual creative writing program for middle-grade students. The program spans six weeks, during which students focus on different elements of story writing, such as character, suspense, dialogue and plot development. Teachers oversee in-class writing, while IRW author partners connect with students through one-on-one virtual writing critiques and group coaching. Students have the opportunity to receive feedback from their peers and showcase their work within and across participating schools.



Since 2008, Island Readers & Writers has hosted an annual island-wide read with students from all seven Mount Desert Island Regional School System schools.

Each year all seventh graders read a carefully selected book and come together for a half-day at Camp Beech Cliff in Mount Desert to participate in themed activities and small group discussions. They also hear first hand from the book’s author, engage in a Q & A session and get their book personalized.

Books are distributed at the beginning of the school year and prior to the event, ELA teachers lead their students in classroom discussion and guide book-inspired projects. On gathering day, kids are mixed into small groups with their peers from different schools and a community volunteer facilitator guides them through the morning. Each facilitator is well-prepared to help lead a vibrant discussion and model a lifelong passion for reading.

The MDI 7th Grade Read was successfully redesigned as a virtual program in fall 2020.