Governor Baldacci Joins First Lady in “Read With ME” InitiativeAugust 29, 2006 - TRCAUGUSTA – Governor John E. Baldacci joined his wife, First Lady Karen Baldacci this morning to highlight the importance of early childhood reading during a book bag-assembling project for the literacy outreach program Read With ME. The First Lady, who is a former kindergarten teacher, spearheads Maine Reads, the umbrella organization for Read With ME. Mrs. Baldacci joined the Governor, Maine author and illustrator Melissa Sweet and Verizon Maine President Ed Dinan this morning to help more than 50 volunteers prepare 18,000 book bags for every incoming kindergarten student in more than 400 schools throughout Maine.“Giving kids the tools they need on their first day of school is important to me,” said Governor Baldacci. “Kids love reading and it’s our job to ensure that they are actively encouraged to read on a daily basis. This program is a wonderful tool for kindergarten students and their families and I’m happy to be here with the First Lady to do our part.”Recently, Mrs. Baldacci sent letters to principals at each school in Maine that has kindergarten students and invited them to participate in the program. The students at those schools that do participate will receive book bags after school opens in September.All of the books and information are provided at no cost to the participating schools and students, thanks to the generous underwriting of the Read With ME program by the Verizon Foundation. Local Maine members of the Verizon Volunteers team participated this morning and Verizon technicians will be making statewide deliveries of the book bags during the first weeks of the upcoming school year.This year's book bags will include the book Schoolyard Rhymes, edited by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Melissa Sweet of Rockport, Maine, as well as reading activity sheets, a resource guide, and a bookmark developed by the illustrator and the Maine Department of Education. Students are also guided to Sweet’s award-winning interactive Web site www.melissasweet.net. DVDs about reading aloud have been produced by Maine Public Broadcasting and the Maine State Library and distributed to school libraries statewide.Maine Reads is a 501c3 non profit aimed at improving literacy and reading skills in Maine and is part of the Verizon Reads national program. For more information about Read With ME. and Maine Reads, go to www.mainereads.org.Verizon delivers technology that touches people’s lives. The Verizon Foundation uses that technology and its financial resources to improve literacy and K-12 education; support people who have experienced domestic violence; and improve the delivery of health care. In 2005, the foundation awarded more than $74 million in grants to charitable and nonprofit agencies in the United States and abroad. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, one of the largest employee volunteer programs in the United States, responsible for 2 million hours of community service since 2000 and $35.6 million in combined contributions to nonprofits in 2005 alone. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.Read Online: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?id=23257&topic=Portal+News&v=article-2006CONTACT: Crystal Canney, 287-2531, (cell) 557-5968 Dan Cashman, 287-2531, (cell) 837-4821 NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.