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Duncan McDougall, executive director of the Children's Literacy Foundation, reads to students at Bennington Elementary.

BENNINGTON >> Bennington Elementary was one of five Vermont schools this year to receive a Year of the Book grant from the Children's Literacy Foundation.

In order to celebrate the $25,000 grant, CLiF's founder and executive director, Duncan McDougall, visited the school on Friday, sharing stories about reading with students, and letting every child in the school pick their first book under the program. Throughout the remainder of the year, each student will receive 8-10 books as part of the program, which will be theirs to keep. Both the school library, the Bennington Free Library, and individual teacher's classrooms will also receive books. The program also funds author and illustrator visits to the school throughout the year, as well as other reading and writing-related activities.

"When you read you can wake up and be anyone you want to be," McDougall told the students, "You can go anywhere you want. Books are like tickets." He said when he was reading a book on dogsledding recently, "I traveled from Alaska to Bennington in just seven short days by book. I thought I was on the dogsled. This is such a cool book, I thought I had fallen into the book, that I was in the race."


According to CLiF, "The CLiF Year of the Book sponsorship supplements literacy curricula at schools with high percentages of students scoring below state standards on reading and writing tests and high percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The grant aims to build a culture of literacy in these communities by working with schools, families, town libraries, and even local businesses to inspire a love of reading and writing amongst children. The grant provides new books for town, school, and classroom libraries multiple literacy presentations and workshops by professional authors, storytellers, and illustrators field trips, minigrants for teachers' classroom projects parent literacy seminars professional development opportunities for teachers and up to 10 new books for students to choose and keep over the course of the school year."

"We look forward to working with nine new schools who, in their applications, demonstrated great need and enthusiasm for CLiF's support. Because these schools are diverse in size, need, and location, we are able to improve our understanding of how to best to support communities in making reading and writing fun for students of all ages, parents, and community partners," says CLiF program director, Meredith Scott.

The other Vermont schools that received the grant were Marlboro School, Waits River Valley School in East Corinth, Richford Elementary School, and Williamstown Elementary School. Four New Hampshire schools also received the grant funding this year.

McDougall founded CLiF in 1998 and has given over $4 million toward literacy programs. The group receives no federal or state money, and is funded entirely through donations.

McDougall was confident that all of the students had great stories inside them waiting to come out. "One day," he said, "I'll have the honor of giving away stories that you guys have written."

— Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.