IRW_Spring2014News_VRevised2-1Spring 2016 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

Sally forth isn’t a phrase you hear very often. To IRW it means to meet new opportunities with enthusiasm, vigor and confidence. And, with your support, that is just what we are doing as we enter a new year!

This promises to be another record-breaking year for IRW. We will continue to grow the number of places we visit, children we reach, and books we give away. Plans are already underway for new programs that tickle the imagination and connect kids, families, and communities. These programs will be based on our shared sense of place and an appreciation of Maine’s natural and human resources.

In this newsletter you will learn more about our new school and community partners and the book-centered adventures that lie ahead. We invite you to “save the date” for our August Annual Meeting A Summer Morning in Maine and to meet Alison Johnson, our Program Assistant for Washington County, and Abby Bridgers, a Junior from Mount Desert Island High School, our spring semester intern. We welcome another Allison, Allison Poteet from Cape Elizabeth, to our Board of Directors, where she has quickly become a highly valued member.

Before closing I want to extend a heartfelt “shout out” to our dear friend and founding board member Sallie Findlay. Sallie has been a leading voice and force in the development of IRW over the past ten years. We will miss her smile, humanity, intelligence, and enthusiasm for all things IRW. Rest assured we will not let her stray far, if at all. 

Happy reading and thank you again for your enthusiasm and steadfast support.

Jan Coates


We Are Going Places

In the 2015-2016 academic year, IRW is venturing into two new schools!

Beatrice Rafferty School

Beatrice Rafferty School, the Passamaquoddy school in Sipayik (also known as Pleasant Point), will receive two author visits this academic year. The first was in November 2015, when author Cynthia Lord kicked off a great inaugural program featuring her books Rules and Shelter Pet Squad. One of the many book-inspired projects involved fourth graders teaching Cynthia the Passamaquoddy words for animals commonly found in shelters (based on characters from Cynthia’s Shelter Pet Squad series). This spring, author Kimberly Ridley and artist Rebekah Raye will visit the school as part of the Alewives: Small Fish, Big Impact community program.

Princeton Elementary School

“Every student counts. Every moment matters” is the motto selected by students, parents, and school staff for Princeton Elementary School. We look forward to contributing meaningful moments to Princeton’s students by visiting with Cynthia Lord and reading her award-winning book Rules in May 2016. Mere miles away from Maine’s eastern border with New Brunswick, Canada, Princeton Elementary School is the northernmost point in IRW’s current geographical reach.

In addition to our work with these two new schools, we are planning to recruit two more schools in the 2016-2017 academic year. Who will be next?


Welcome Aboard

IRW is proud of its dedicated, passionate Board of Directors and, in 2015, we added yet another incredible member. Allison Kupfer Poteet brings to the Board both experience in the non-profit sector and a contagious, positive energy.

She is a partner and Vice President of the executive search firm Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, and is also the co-chair of Human Capital Network, an initiative of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.

Allison was immediately intrigued when she was first introduced to IRW, and was floored by the collective energy at the first Summer Morning in Maine appreciation event she attended.

She said, “I love the way IRW celebrates the joy that books bring to our lives and the way they bind us to each other and our passions. I am so honored to be a member of this Board and to play a small part in bringing IRW programs to touch more lives.”

Allison lives in Cape Elizabeth with her husband Dan and two very active dogs, Coco and Zoey, and all are getting ready for the arrival of a baby girl this spring.


Alewives: Small Fish, Big Impact

This spring, we will be convening six schools and more than a dozen community organizations to dive deep into a critical and contentious local issue: the herring fish known as alewives. They spend most of their lives at sea but, over the past few decades, their inability to successfully return to streams to spawn has had great environmental, political, historical and cultural implications. In celebration of two recent locally authored books related to alewives, The Secret Bay by Kimberly Ridley and Swimming Home by Susan Shetterly, both with beautiful illustrations by Rebekah Raye, IRW will be working with six elementary schools in Washington County (Beals, Jonesport, Whiting, Edmunds, Pembroke, Sipayik) to prepare the next generation of readers and learners to be informed stewards and citizens.

The goal is to build awareness and celebrate the rich history of the fish and their migration from ocean to estuary to river. Their importance in the food web, and ultimately the connection between place, nature and heritage, will be highlighted through literature, art, and hands-on activities throughout March, April and May, among students as well as adults.  Other partner organizations working with us to provide educational experiences, both in the classroom and in the field, include Downeast Salmon Federation, Maine Sea Grant, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Schoodic Institute and Downeast Coastal Conservancy, as well as local libraries. We are grateful to the Maine Community Foundation’s Washington County Fund and other donors for supporting this program.

The final celebration on May 21, 2016 – World Fish Migration Day – will take place throughout the day along the Downeast waterways from Beals Island to Trescott, all hosted by our community partners who are committed to restoring the fish and vital fishways. IRW will host activities, exhibitors, book signing and a display of student writing and artwork at Cobscook Community Learning Center. So, get your running shoes on (the Smolt Bolt road race is in the morning), bring your paddles and binoculars for a trip on the Orange River, and save room for some chowder (and smoked alewives) on May 21.


ARROW Retreat

As part of Acadia’s Centennial celebration, the April ARROW Retreat will focus on conservation, and the foresight and action needed to take care of what is near and dear to us in the natural world. Participants will be asked to select a place in the park that is special to them and to contemplate the reasons behind their choice. 

Award-winning writer Gary Schmidt will return to guide participants through reading discussions and writing workshops and Maine artist Rebekah Raye will lead art workshops, with all activities designed to foster reflection on personal values and dreams for a progressive future. The retreat is open to 6th-8th grade students and homeschoolers from MDI and its outer islands – and it’s free!

Weather depending, a large part of the retreat will be held outdoors and participants will explore local landscapes through guided walks and open air talks by a park ranger and other presenters from the MDI community.

For more information on the program and presenters, visit:


A Summer Morning in Maine

Save the Date!

The 2016 IRW Annual Meeting and appreciation event, complete with pancake breakfast, is scheduled for Thursday, August 11, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Cape Farm in Seal Cove. We’ll have more details as the date approaches.


Some Writer

IRW is proud to announce that in October and early November 2016, Caldecott Medal winner Melissa Sweet will join us for a coastal island tour celebrating her book Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White. White’s biography is written and illustrated by Melissa and is for children in grades 4 – 7, but will appeal to E. B. White fans of all ages.

The tour will consist of visits to six schools (North Haven, Vinalhaven, Deer Isle-Stonington, Tremont, Swan’s Island, and the Ashley Bryan School on Little Cranberry Island) and that’s not all!  There will be public presentations too. The book will be the centerpiece of a series of community-wide programs inspired by the writings of E.B. White.

Planning committees have been enthusiastically created on participating islands, with IRW, schools, libraries, community centers and numerous non-profits coming together to fashion a series of programs for each community, including literature-based theatrical presentations, films, readings and discussions, among other offerings. These programs will bring the writings of Melissa Sweet and E.B. White to life and neighbors, families and readers of all ages together.

Keep an eye on our website and follow us on Facebook to learn more about the Some Writer! Tour.  It promises to be incredible.


More Hands on Deck

In the not-so-distant past, IRW had a staff of one. Now it’s up to 3.5 and an intern. In September 2015, we welcomed Alison Johnson to the team as Program Assistant for Washington County.

At IRW, Alison assists Ruth, IRW Program Director, in creating and continuing relationships with school and community partners in Washington County, and the planning and facilitation of author/illustrator school visits.

Alison said about her work, “I love seeing the kids’ excitement when they engage with the authors and illustrators and receive their very own copy of a book personally signed for them. But I also really enjoy working with the teachers and sharing ideas about how to use literature with their students in a variety of ways.”

Alison has served on several local nonprofit and community boards, including the Dorcas Library, the Schoodic Community Fund and, currently, the RSU24 School Board.

IRW is also excited to bring Abby Bridgers on board as intern this year. Abby is an ARROW alumni and volunteer. She is a great fit for the organization and offers us a range of fresh ideas for marketing, communications, and program design.

Abby said, “The common IRW theme that I just can’t get enough of is reflection. No matter what you’re discussing, you’re asked your opinion over and over. In the form of writing, public speaking, art, and even hand-raising, IRW wants you to express your thoughts about what you think, what you love, how you interpret something and whatever else you dream up.”

We’re so happy she chose IRW to help her gain real-world experience in creating high-quality programs, and to see behind-the-scenes of the programs she’s found so fulfilling.


Teachers + Collaboration = Success

Since September, thirty teachers from Jonesport Elementary and Lubec Consolidated School have been participating in an IRW designed and facilitated PLC (Professional Learning Community). The purpose of the PLC is to deepen the impact of IRW book-centered author visits by bringing teachers together to explore book use across subject areas and grade levels. The PLC draws attention to IRW developed worksheets that supplement the books, and provides time for teachers to plan lessons together that enhance the overall author visit experience for students.

A key component of the PLC is the opportunity for teachers to meet and work with authors and their books before a full school visit. In the fall, teachers worked with poet Paul Janezcko to learn about and practice various formats of poetry.

When Paul returned to visit with students, he witnessed hallways lined with poems of all kinds, and students were eager to read their own poems out loud, ask questions, and offer their own ideas on what makes an interesting poem. Our spring PLC sessions welcome author Kim Ridley and her latest book, The Secret Bay.

We are very grateful for the level of trust and confidence these two schools have placed in IRW and for their willingness to participate in this grant funded pilot program.  IRW sought and received approval to award Continuing Education Credits through the University of Maine to teachers for their participation in the PLC.

All early indicators suggest it’s a success and we plan to refine and replicate this PLC for use in other IRW partnering schools. 


New Talent in the IRW Family!

Our author/illustrator partners are like family to us, and this year we proudly added two more to the brood: author Ellen Potter of Castine, Maine, and author/illustrator Calef Brown of Providence, Rhode Island.

Ellen Potter has written over a dozen children’s books, including the Piper Green series, the Olivia Kidney series, SLOB, and others. Amazon, Shelf Awareness, and the New York Public Library all chose Piper Green and the Fairy Tree as a Best Children’s Book of 2015.

Ellen’s character Piper Green is a young island girl from Maine who has to ride a lobster boat to school every day, so naturally Ellen bonded with students from the Cranberry Islands when IRW brought her to visit the Ashley Bryan School in Fall 2015. Piper Green has a fairy tree in her backyard, and when Ellen visited the three female students of Frenchboro School in September, they walked through the woods together to the forest spots where each student had created a fairy house. In Spring 2016, we’re bringing Ellen’s whimsy and wisdom to Milbridge Elementary School and Swan’s Island Elementary School.

There’s nothing quite like the art and poetry of Calef Brown, and his books are instant classics in children’s literature. His artwork is also prevalent outside the world of children’s books; he’s created interior and cover illustrations for numerous publications, such as Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, among many others.

He is a master of wordplay, and every poem reads like an escapade through consonants and vowels, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. This year we brought Calef to Vinalhaven School, Deer Isle – Stonington Elementary School, and Milbridge Elementary School.

Check out our website for news on these and other visits, and for more information on other author/illustrators in the IRW family.


Many Thanks to Sallie Findlay!

Back in 2004, Sallie Findlay was part of the initial group of likeminded, passionate people Jan Coates gathered together to talk about her dream of starting an organization that brings authors and illustrators to children living on Maine’s islands. Sallie became a founding Board member when IRW incorporated in 2006;   she served as the Board’s President for three years and Vice President/Treasurer for six years. Now bidding adieu at the end of her third term, Sallie’s original interest in book-centered programs hasn’t waned a bit, and there’s one solid reason why – because of the kids!

Sallie’s warmth and vitality have been a source of joy to both the Board and the wide family of IRW partners. She has kept her compass pointed to the ‘true north’ of positively impacting children and their communities, and strongly advocated for IRW’s geographic expansion into Washington County in 2011.

Sallie says there have been many highlights during her decade serving IRW, including witnessing the program’s impact on communities and teachers; being part of the happy crowd attending every August’s Summer Morning in Maine event; the two NEA Big Read programs; and Cynthia Lord’s book launch of A Handful of Stars in Milbridge in June 2015, where a third of the town’s population came together to celebrate with their children.

The organization has steadily grown in the last 10 years, and Sallie’s contributions as a Board member have done much to inspire and activate that progress. IRW is forever grateful for her creative and thoughtful ideas, her passion for reading, and her interest in Maine children.


Since 2006, Island Readers & Writers has given away over 10,000 books to Maine children living in rural communities.