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Children's Literacy Fund gives gift of reading

August 12, 2010
BERLIN — The Berlin Public Library finished their children's summer reading program off with festivities at the Community Playground last Monday. There were games and face painting for all, but the real highlight of the morning was the visit from the Children's Literacy Fund (CLIF), a non-profit organization that gives the gift of two free books to low-income and at-risk youth across New Hampshire and Vermont, all in the name of nurturing a love of reading and writing in children.

"When I was your age, I built the pyramids," said CLIF Director and Storyteller Duncan McDougall to the gathered group of kids and parents. "When I was your age, I was the first person to climb Mt. Everest."

Mr. McDougall immediately captured the children's attention with his energetic mannerisms and rampant enthusiasm, explaining to the children the importance of reading and writing, telling the story of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and then getting the kids pumped up to select two titles from the array of shiny, new books he had laid out on tarps across the lawn.

"Who likes adventure books? Who likes fantasy books? Who likes scary books? Who likes animal books?" Mr. McDougall asked, holding up selections for each genre as children's hands shot into the air. Every child was then given a turn to select one, and then two books.

"It's fantastic. Duncan's so energetic," said Children's Librarian Kathy Godin who has worked with Mr. McDougall for the past four end-of-program parties. She had 83 kids in her program this summer that met once a week to discuss progress. The children set individual goals, which if met, earned them a certificate and free, donated ticket to Storyland. Ms. Godin praised CLIF, noting the quality of the books given out. "They're all new books, they're not outdated."

CLIF operates completely through donations.

"Everything we do it thanks to donations from the community," explained Mr. McDougall, who is always looking for generosity from the community to continue his work. "Not one penny is federal funds, which is unusual for a non-profit."

CLIF was founded in 1998 and operates 16 literacy programs, that include visiting rural public libraries, operating 3-day in-school workshops featuring well-known authors and poets, and working with migrant children and children of prison inmates.

" We frequently go up to the prison and work with the prisoners to encourage them to read to their children," said Mr. McDougall. CLIF also does storytelling on community day at the prison.

In the 12 years CLIF has been in existence, they have worked with over 100,000 kids across the two states.

If someone would like to donate to CLIF, they can contact the foundation at 802-244-0944, or visit the website at www.clifonline.org.

"What we do is share our love of something that is so important: reading, and writing, and stories," said Mr. McDougall.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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