January 21, 2018
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Idita-Readers Read from Anchorage to Nome

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The local Idita-Read reading incentive program sponsored by the Downeast Dog Scouts has been a great success from all accounts by readers, parents, teachers and librarians. From March 2nd through April 22nd of this year, 184 children logged a total of 188,375 reading minutes or 3,140 hours, working toward their individual goal of 998 reading minutes correlating to the Iditarod mileage on the Southern Route.

The Idita-Read is an incentive reading project for school age readers offered through the nonprofit World Wide Idea’s Read-A-Route Program. Mirroring Alaska’s biggest annual sled dog race, the Idita-Readers relied on reading minutes to travel the distance along the Iditarod trail from Anchorage to Nome. One minute of reading equals one mile on the Iditarod trail. Based on the 2013 Iditarod race schedule, readers took up to 52 days to complete the race.

With support from the Hattie A. and Freddie C. Lynam Trust, the Downeast Dog Scouts sponsored Idita-Read Teams at the Ashley Bryan School on Islesford, Blue Hill Library, Frenchboro School, Northeast Harbor Library and the Tremont School. The Downeast Dog Scouts troop dogs served as Team Mascots, and encouraged their reading teams along the way. This year’s mascots were: Alaskan Malamute – Bruno, Golden Retrievers – Raya and Rebel, Great Pyrenees – Cirra, Italian Greyhounds – Bri and Gracie, Labrador Retrievers – Rissa, Jill and Lily.

The Idita-Readers tracked their reading progress from Anchorage to Nome on Iditarod maps at their school or library. There were canvas bags with stuffed huskies available for the children to read with a “friend”. Some readers used bone shaped board books to create stories and art projects. All readers received notes of encouragement from their team mascots and several students had an opportunity to read to the troop dogs.

The Tremont School Idita-Read was dedicated to a very special and loved Dog Scout, Timber. Timber, a Labrador Retriever, was a Reading Education Assistance Dog at the Tremont School with her owner Pam Bourque for five years. Timber helped students improve their reading skills and was the first Reading Education Assistance Dog to work in a school setting in Maine. School Librarian Crystal Dow coordinated the Idita-Read at the Tremont School. Her tireless dedication to reading and education motivated the entire student body. The children read 521 more hours than they did during the project last year. The student body was divided into four teams: Red “Thunder Puppies”, Green “Turbo Tundra Dogs”, Blue “The Hush Puppies” and Purple “The Reading Huskies.”

Pat Horton, Youth Services Librarian organized the Blue Hill Extreme Readers at the Blue Hill Library. The library’s Reading Education Assistance Dog, Gracie and her readers joined the “Blue Hill Extreme Readers” to celebrate reading at the library’s Finish Line Celebration. Northeast Harbor Library’s Children’s’ Librarian, Eilleen MacLean coordinated the project with fourth and fifth grade educators at Mount Desert Elementary School. Three classes participated: Ms. Tripp’s red team – “The Red Rangers”, Ms. Taylor’s purple team – “The Purple Paws” and Ms. Gray’s green team – “The Juggernauts”.

The “Ashley Bryan Mushers” from the Ashley Bryan School on Islesford were coordinated by educators Donna Isaacs and Lauren Simmons. The “Mushers” had a canvas bag with a husky “friend” for reading when riding the ferry. Frenchboro educator, Ashley MacCaslin coordinated the “Frenchboro Readers” at the school. Frenchboro School readers travelled the trail while reading by Skype with mascots Raya and Rebel from the town of Otis.

Idita-Readers and educators celebrated their achievements at Finish Line Celebrations with the Downeast Dog Scout Mascots. All readers received Certificates of Accomplishment and reward books for their reading efforts while they enjoyed a special Idtia-Read cake. The readers visited with the troop dogs and many of the children read their new books to the dogs.

Educators reported tremendous enthusiasm among the readers for the Idita-Read Project. The Idita-Read was a great motivator for the students and made a big difference with their reading. It was wonderful to see the readers so excited about books!!!

Downeast Dog Scouts Troop 159 is an affiliate of the Dog Scouts of America in Hancock County, Maine that promotes responsible dog ownership, bringing people and dogs together to learn, socialize and help in the community. Reading is the cornerstone of all learning and many of the dogs in the troop are Reading Education Assistance Dogs. The Idita-Read is a fantastic project for a group that loves dogs, the outdoors and the promotion of positive canine relationships through education and reading with children.