IRW Spring 2013 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 

It was a busy fall and winter here at IRW, and things haven’t slowed down.

We took Chris Van Dusen to Deer Isle/Stonington, Islesford, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Mount Desert Island, and Washington County; Cynthia Lord to Milbridge and Southwest Harbor; Scott Nash to Southwest Harbor; and Paul Janeczko to Jonesport. The kids from Swan’s Island and Frenchboro were thrilled with a visit from Kathryn Lasky of Guardians of Ga’Hoole fame two days after a naturalist from the Chewonki Foundation visited the school with three real live owls – all courtesy of IRW. We also piloted our Literary Links to Science program, to great acclaim, in Lubec, Machias and Machiasport.

The days are getting longer now, and we’re springing forward with plans aplenty. April is a big month for us. Not only are we presenting at a distinguished literacy conference, but we’re also launching a new program, the ARROW Retreat. We’ll be taking Paul Janeczko to Bar Harbor. The BookGear pilot program is nearly ready to go out, and we’re excited about our growing partnership with the MDI Biological Laboratory as we work together to bring books and related hands-on science to youngsters. And, of course, we have our annual Island-Wide Read for students on Mount Desert Island. This year it’s for sixth-graders and the featured book is the award-winning Small As An Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. The novel has special appeal, as much of it is set in real, recognizable, locations on Mount Desert Island – places the young readers will be familiar with.

In this newsletter, we share some highlights of the past and future. In 2012 alone, IRW distributed an estimated 2,060 books to children and families living on coastal islands and in Hancock and Washington Counties. We made 16 school visits and took authors to several public libraries. We were the only Maine recipient of an NEA grant to stage a Big Read in 2012 – and we did so with aplomb, planning 45 programs that drew 1,290 readers of all ages from seven islands, and involving 10 libraries, 25 other nonprofit partners and two school districts. The number of volunteers, presenters and program attendees approached 2,400 for the year.

We’re staying busy writing grant proposals, developing and implementing programs, getting new books into the hands of Maine children, and seeking to inspire in them a passion for reading and learning.

As always here at IRW, we welcome your comments, ideas and donations.

Very best,

Jan Coates


Mark Your Calendars!

The 2013 IRW Annual Meeting is set for Thursday, Aug. 8 beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Nancy and George Putnam are graciously hosting this year at their Seal Cove home on the Cape Road.

We’ll have more details closer to the date.


Library program is gearing up

IRW is gearing up for an exciting new program – BookGear! As promised in our last newsletter, here’s an update of what’s happening.

Six libraries have been chosen by District Consultants from the Maine State Library System to participate in our pilot project: Rockport Public Library, Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham, Cherryfield Free Public Library, William Fogg Public Library in Eliot, Underwood Memorial Library in Fayette, and Strong Public Library. IRW Executive Director Jan Coates will be visiting each library this spring and working with the librarians to set timetables and plan out the specifics of each library’s participation.

This new offering is the evolution of our successful Friends Over Books summer reading program that was run by volunteers for so many years. Their hard work has resulted in the creation of a self-contained unit for children 9 to 14 years old including books, discussion questions, an introductory video and marketing materials, activity sheets, and training handouts for volunteer facilitators.

Those volunteers and library staff will help us evaluate the materials and refine the package as a whole.

We’re excited to continue the work of all the dedicated volunteers who have worked so hard to develop Friends Over Books, and to expand our programming to serve children throughout Maine.


Spreading the word–and the word is “AWESOME”

Word is spreading about the good work being done by IRW. We were honored recently with an invitation to present at the 5th Annual Literacy Connections Conference in Waterville, Maine, on April 4.

The conference is sponsored by the Maine Department of Education, Maine Family Literacy Initiative, and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The focus this year is to spark community efforts and excitement about Literacy for ME, which is Maine’s comprehensive literacy plan designed to provide a unifying vision for literacy from birth to adulthood and help Maine’s children and adults meet the literacy demands of the 21st century.

Executive Director Jan Coates will be joined by Michelle Finn, the program coordinator for IRW’s Down East initiatives, to share IRW’s philosophy, model, and track record at the conference. This is a perfect opportunity to network with state leaders in the fields of education and literacy, and to continue getting out the message about what we do.

It is an affirmation that we’re doing something right, and that other people are hearing about it.


Building our program Down East

Our longtime friend, award-winning author/illustrator Chris Van Dusen, headed Down East with IRW in February to work with students at schools in Lubec, Machiasport, Machias and Jonesport. While he was in the region, he made time for a public program at Porter Memorial Library in Machias, too. Chris inspires a lot of excitement in a room full of schoolchildren – hands shoot up to answer his questions and smiles are on just about every face. “He’s very adept at making each kid feel listened to and special,” said Michelle Finn, IRW’s Down East program coordinator.

These visits were a continuation of IRW’s work with its inland islands, and like last fall’s visits to Deer Isle and Stonington, they centered around Chris’ new book,  If I Built A House.

All the students got their very own copies of the book, courtesy of IRW.  A second-grader in Lubec clutched his and called out to a buddy, “I’m going to keep this my whole entire life!”


Now they’re poets and know it

Students at Jonesport Elementary got A Kick In The Head from IRW last November, and what a great time they had!

Award-winning writer Paul Janeczko, author of A Kick In The Head: An Everyday Guide To Poetic Forms visited the school courtesy of IRW, which provided a copy of the book to all students in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades there. In addition to working with students in those grades, Paul gave a presentation for the entire school.

Paul is the author of more than 40 books including poetry, fiction, nonfiction and anthologies for children, as well as books for teachers. His volumes of poetry Worlds Afire and Brickyard Summer each was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

“We’re so thankful,” said Jonesport Elementary School principal Danielle Fagonde. “Our school kids really haven’t had too many opportunities to meet real life authors, so this was wonderful.”

Paul will be working with students in Bar Harbor thanks to IRW in April.


Soaring high with ARROW

We’re aiming high this year with our inaugural ARROW Retreat for 7th and 8th-graders during spring break, April 15 to 18, at Camp Beech Cliff in Mount Desert. Thirty students from each grade are signed up to work with our all-star lineup of mentors: Newbery Honor author Gary Schmidt; artist and picture book author Rebekah Raye; and renowned naturalist Rich MacDonald.

A=art  R=reading  R=reflection O=observation W=writing

IRW is providing each participant with a copy of Gary’s wonderful book, Okay for Now, plus a journal and art supplies. And thanks to a generous grant, this is all provided at no charge to participants.

We will have a full report about ARROW Retreat in the next newsletter, and on our website at