CANCELLED: Registration now open for 2020 Maine Literacy Connections Conference

NOTE (April 9, 2020): Due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, the 2020 Maine Literacy Connections Conference has been cancelled. We’ve already scheduled next year’s conference and look forward to seeing you then. Refunds will be issued as soon as possible. For more information, please contact Susan Bennett-Armistead ( or Kathie Wing (

The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development and the Lifespan Literacy Community are excited to announce details of the 2020 Maine Literacy Connections Conference, which will be held April 2 at Thomas College in Waterville.

The conference will feature several sessions on topics in childhood and adult literacy, as well as a keynote speech from Lt. Tim Cotton, the officer behind the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page. In addition, this year’s Correll Book Awards will be announced during the event.

A conference schedule and workshop session descriptions are below.

Cost is $110 for general registration and $40 for undergraduate students. Registration is available online.

For more information: Kathie Wing, 207.581.2493 or Susan Bennett-Armistead,

Morning Schedule Afternoon Schedule
7:30 – 8:30 Registration 11:45-12:45 Lunch
8:30 -8:40 Welcome 12:45 – 1:30 Correll Book Award Presentation
8:40 – 8:55 Opening Remarks 1:30 – 1:45 Break
8:55 – 9:45 Keynote: Tim Cotton 1:45 – 3:15 Afternoon Workshops
9:45 – 10:15 Break 3:15 Door Prizes
10:15 – 11:45 Morning Workshop 3:30 Closing

Briar Patch Books will have a vendor table available during breaks.

Morning Workshops:

Session 1: Effective Strategies for Engaging Families in Adult and Early Literacy – Ann Marie Barter (Level of focus: child care, PreK, 4-6, adult literacy, and after school)
This highly interactive workshop will offer participants the opportunity to explore free online resources geared towards helping early childhood providers and parents support literacy for children from birth through age 3. We will cover effective strategies to help babies prepare their brains for literacy acquisition, online sites that provide free courses and literacy tips for practitioners, and effective methods of engaging parents and sharing online resources with them. Participants will learn, share, and explore a variety of family engagement models in order to increase opportunities for parent literacy to positively impact their children’s literacy. Ann Marie Barter has over 30 years of experience in teaching, training, volunteer coordination and program administration. She currently serves as the Senior Director of Curriculum and Training for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Ann Marie develops both online and print-based curriculum for reading mentoring programs and literacy trainings. She has been a state and national level trainer for more than 20 years.

Session 2: To tech or not, that is the question in a culture of caring. – Kathryn Will-Dubyak (Level of focus: Grades 4-8)
In this session participants will explore the roles technology can play in the English language arts community where conscientious caring is valued. Using children’s literature appropriate for grades 4-8 in various ways to engage children in writing, speaking, and listening will be shared with the participants. Kathryn Will-Dubyak is assistant professor in the Department of Elementary Education at the University of Maine Farmington. Her work centers on developing integrative pedagogical practices, and learning with pre-service teachers in situated communities of practice. This workshop will be facilitated with preservice teachers from the University of Maine Farmington.

Session 3: Empathic Peer-Tutoring: UMaine Writing Center Culture – Paige Mitchell, Nolan Altavater and Brooke Curtis (Level of focus: Grades 4-8)
This adult literacy workshop begins with a five minute mindfulness exercise, a training method that UMaine peer-tutors practice to instill a culture of empathy, agency, and open listening. We then share our history of establishing a Writing Center culture of community support. Our panel consists of UMaine Writing Center director, Paige Mitchell, who trains tutors at Umaine and Penobscot County Jail, and two undergraduate tutors who share their experiences, and community activism initiatives. Paige Mitchell has directed the University of Maine Writing Center for six years. She teaches composition courses on campus and at the Penobscot County Jail, and is a PhD student concentrating in literacy. Nolan Altavater is a Native American student researcher at the University of Maine, where he double majors in secondary education and English, and tutors in the Writing Center. Brooke Curtis tutors at the University of Maine Writing Center. She studies English with a concentration in analytical writing, and minors in anthropology and education.

Session 4: Enhancing a Student’s Desire to Learn: Knowledge and Care – Ms. Shawne McCord (Level of focus: K-3 and 4-6)
During this workshop we are going to look carefully at the multifaceted process a teacher engages in when attempting to enhance a student’s desire to learn. Writing instruction and learning examples will be used to describe different aspects of this process. Shawne McCord is a literacy interventionist at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School in Brunswick. Shawne has taught for more than 20 years. Some of those years have been in elementary classrooms, some at the college graduate level, but most as an elementary literacy interventionist. For the past few years she has actively been incorporating writing into her repertoire of literacy instruction.

Session 5: “Do the best you can, in the place you are, and be kind.” – Scott Nearing and Jane Wellman-Little (Level of focus: PreK-8)
We will explore how to fuse together social-emotional and academic learning in our classrooms. In this interactive session, participants will create and share text sets that celebrate the heads and hearts of children.

Session 6: Community Caring About Literacy – Nan Bell, Virginia Marriner and Theresa Violette (Level of focus: Birth-adult)
Recognizing that strong literacy skills help people reach their potential personally, professionally and economically, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, Augusta Literacy For ME Team and Literacy Volunteers of Greater Augusta, along with several other Kennebec County agencies brought the community together for a public forum, coordinated with International Literacy Day, to discuss ideas, gather knowledge from stakeholders and spread awareness about relevant literacy issues facing our community. The intent of this gathering was to bring our community together to find ways to build, encourage, strengthen and support literacy for all ages. Our literacy team knows that to make an impact, a community effort is necessary. Participants were invited from a wide range of groups including business leaders, health professionals, technology experts, and educators (Head Start to UMA) to determine how limited literacy impacts each field and organization. Participants were divided into discussion tables with a focus on specific issues (i.e. workplace literacy, financial literacy, family literacy). Each table was provided general data related to the specific issue and asked to work together to brainstorm solutions. This workshop is designed to discuss this process, share outcomes from the discussion and engage workshop participants in a similar exercise to explore how other communities can engage a wide range of partners in developing solutions to building a more literate, caring, and strong community. Nan Bell is the Let’s Go! Coordinator for Southern Kennebec County with Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, a nonprofit public health organization. The focus of Nan’s work is to prevent childhood obesity by working with schools and child care sites to create environments that encourage and support healthy behaviors related to eating and physical activity. Nan has a long history of involvement with social service agencies in the Kennebec County area and is a lead member of the Kennebec Community Network. Virginia Marriner is executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Augusta, where she works to ensure access to literacy services throughout the community. Virginia retired from 30 years in Maine public child welfare as DHHS Director of Child Welfare Policy and Practice, where she oversaw child protection, foster care, adoption, administered several federal programs associated with child welfare, and was the legislative liaison for Child and Family Services. Virginia is a graduate of the University of Maine and is a Licensed Social Worker in Maine. Theresa Violette is the Director of Title I and McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison in the Augusta School Department, where she supports children PK-12. Theresa is also the President of the Augusta Literacy For ME team, a 501c organization that promotes the importance of literacy growth for all citizens to ensure a healthy and prosperous community. Theresa has worked in public education for 26 years as an elementary classroom teacher, literacy interventionist, literacy coach and administrator. She has also taught courses for the Maine Department of Education and the University of Southern Maine, as well as literacy workshops in local school districts around the state. Theresa is a graduate of the University of Maine and also has her M.S.Ed in literacy and C.A.S. in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine. She sits on the Southern Kennebec Child Development Corporation Board of Directors, is on the steering committee of the Maine Title I Educator’s Network, and is an active participant in Augusta’s homeless working group. She has a husband, 2 sons, and 2 cats who she loves to spend time with!

Session 7: Using Children’s Literature and Book Sharing to Promote Social-Emotional Learning and Positive Family Relationships – Sarah MacLaughlin, Anne Quirion and Jessica Shaffer (Level of focus: Childcare, Toddlers, Pre-K)
We know that reading aloud to children helps form important neural connections during the first five years of life when 95% of brain development occurs. Not only does reading aloud have clear cognitive benefits, it strengthens children’s skills directly related to later school success: vocabulary, listening comprehension, and social and emotional development. Join us for an engaging session that highlights ways to improve social skills, emotional intelligence, and even conflict resolution for young children and families. Children learn to understand and cope with their upset better when parents and educators guide them toward (and not away from) their emotions. This is especially true with the more difficult feelings like jealously, anger, and grief. Explore books and interactive activities and learn how 20 years of sharing over 3 million books with families in Maine helps secure the bond between parent/caregiver and child, encouraging loving back and forth interactions that promote social-emotional growth during this critical time in a child’s development. Sarah MacLaughlin is a social worker, parent educator, and author of the award-winning, bestselling book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children (Bay Island Books, 2010). She works full-time as a writer, trainer, and content expert for ZERO TO THREE, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the well-being of babies and young children. Sarah lives in Windham with her family, including a tweenaged son who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice. Anne Quirion is a Program Manager with Raising Readers at MaineHealth. She provides project and operations management to this highly successful early literacy initiative. She also manages the program’s social media presence, utilizing multiple platforms to keep the love of books and reading in the forefront of young parents’ minds. A Maine native, Anne has been with Raising Readers for 19 years and lives in Scarborough. Jessica Shaffer is Director of Community Health Partnerships at Northern Light Health. She provides program management for a number of community health initiatives, including a longstanding partnership with MaineHealth on Raising Readers, an early literacy program that has been promoting

Session 8: Wonderful Ways to Wake Up Your Writing Workshop – Debbie Stevens and Gabrielle Sugar (Level of focus: K-5)
“I have nothing to write about.” How often do we hear this from our students? In this helpful session, you’ll learn practical ways to come to your students’ rescue with fun, engaging, ready-to-use lessons to not only give children good ideas, but to help inspire your students’ confidence and imagination. Debbie Stevens has taught second grade in Old Town for 22 years. She was selected to be a teacher-leader for the State of Maine Social Studies Department and served on the committee to revise the 2019 Maine Learning Results. As a teacher-consultant for the Maine Writing Project, Debbie’s passion is not only teaching writing, but sharing her own writing with her students. Debbie has a master’s degree in literacy with a concentration in writing and the teaching of writing. Gabrielle Sugar is a graduate of Husson University. She received her bachelor’s degree for K-8 elementary education in 2017. While attending Husson, she was part of the Teacher Education Advisory Board, Women’s Leadership committee, Diversity Series, and played softball. She has been teaching second grade in Old Town for three years. Gabrielle is continuing to develop a passion for meaningful technology integration in the classroom. She is planning to pursue a master’s in instructional technology at the University of Maine.

Afternoon Workshops:

Session 1: Creating Caring Communities through Collaborative Writing and Story-acting – Cara Furman, Ph.D. (Level of focus: Child care, Pre-K, K-3, 4-6)
Early childhood educator and fierce advocate of children, Vivian Paley, argued that storytelling is innate, play and storytelling are closely linked, and that we create community by sharing stories. Grounded in these understandings, Paley developed a practice of having children dictate and then perform stories. While Paley’s work is widely recognized and generally well-regarded, it is not widely practiced. This presentation addresses one challenge: translating Paley’s stories about teaching into practices. Drawing on my experience adapting Paley’s ideas for children from pre-k to fifth grade as well as teaching it to teachers, I will guide participants through a collaborative writing activity and then story-acting. The group will then reflect together on how the activities both grow students’ literacy capacity and also promotes caring communities. Both activities can be fit into a busy school day and complement existing writing curriculum. With this in mind, the session will close with teachers reflecting on how they might adapt what we did to their own settings. Cara Furman is an assistant professor of literacy education at the University of Maine at Farmington. Previously, she was an urban public elementary school teacher. Her teaching centers on descriptive inquiry, teacher inquiry, asset based inclusive teaching and progressive practices.

Session 2: What is Dyslexia? – Laurie Marcotte, FCALP-ICALP (Level of focus: For professionals working with emergent to adult readers or a parent of a child with dyslexia)
This interactive presentation will introduce participants to the IDA definition of dyslexia along with a discussion of the core deficits and “red flags” of dyslexia. Participants will be led through a series of empathy building exercises that will demonstrate the struggles of individuals with dyslexia. Participants will also learn about the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Bangor and how we serve the students of Maine at no cost to families. Laurie Marcotte holds Dyslexia Practitioner 1 and 2, supervisor, and instructor certifications in an IMSELC accredited MSLA program (Children’s Dyslexia Centers, Inc.) and holds credentials with ALTA as an Academic Language Practitioner and an Instructor of Academic Language Practitioners. She has ten years of experience providing direct instruction to students at the Children’s Dyslexia of Bangor and as a private practitioner.

Session 3: Making Book Magic – Pam Leo (Level of focus: birth – grade 3)
When young children have not had the privilege of owning books and being read to regularly by someone they love by age 4, they are at risk for becoming functionally illiterate. We still have time to create the book magic of “relevance” that will entice them into the magic of books before they start school. Come learn how “Just-Like-In-The-Story“ bags are changing how Head Start children in Westbrook will now be relating to books. Spoiler Alert: You will likely leave this workshop unable to see a children’s book again without wanting to “accessorize” it! Pam Leo has worked with families for over 40 years as a child care provider, a parent educator, a provider trainer, a home schooler, and a birth doula. Pam is the author of Connection Parenting, the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, creator of “Just-Like-In-the-Story” bags, and the 100 Stories Before 1st Grade Project.

Session 4: Facilitating Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension for Adolescents who Struggle with Social Awareness – Chris Healy, Ph.D. (Level of focus: Adolescent Students – middle to high school)
This workshop familiarizes educators with practices that help adolescent students develop practical vocabulary and comprehension strategies as they analyze fictional characters. In addition, educators will be guided in helping students precisely summarize key emotions and motivations leading to character actions. This is an interactive multi-media workshop with audience participation. Participants will engage reading and responding to short fiction sections and practicing comprehension strategies with other workshop attendees. Participants will construct several vocabulary and comprehension aides including semantic gradients and emotional thermometers, visual maps, and social stories. Key objectives of the presentation include familiarizing participants with: Sub-group of reading disabilities marked by difficulties in social reasoning, abstract verbal reasoning, and language comprehension, major research findings in reading impairments, and techniques for enhancing reading comprehension. Chris Healy is an experienced special educator with more than 20 years of classroom experience. Chris has designed a high school English classroom focused exclusively on teaching active reading strategies for struggling readers.

Session 5: Using children’s literature to develop understandings of belonging and acceptance – Kathryn Will-Dubyak (Level of focus: K-8)
In this interactive workshop, participants will have an opportunity to engage in a variety of integrated activities to use in their classrooms that align to social studies and English language arts standards. The activities will be based in recently published children’s literature to provide the foundation for the participatory work.

Session 6: Raising Voices: Promoting Oral Language in Early Childhood Programs – Susan Bennett-Armistead, Ph.D. (Level of focus: Babies – elementary)
Oral language is the foundation of literacy learning and yet many children come to our programs with small vocabularies, little experience with articulating their thinking, and ways to understand the world around them. This session gives background information about language learning and many strategies for expanding our repertoire for building language in our littlest learners. Drawing on language research as well as nature-based play experiences, this session will leave participants energized to engage in language-promoting fun in their own classrooms. Susan Bennett-Armistead is an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study she was a preschool teacher and parent educator for 14 years. She publishes, consults and speaks internationally on early literacy development and the roles that families and early educators can play in advancing children’s learning.

Session 7: Understanding Poverty: Improving Communication between Social Classes – Literacy Volunteers of Bangor (Level of focus: Adults, families)
When working with immigrants, we expect to discover differences in culture, values, language,and experiences. What about when we are working with adults “from here” and these gaps exist and become barriers to progress and communication? What role does understanding poverty contribute to the disconnect between teachers/tutors/providers and our adult students? This workshop explores ways of communicating with adult students or families who live in the crisis of poverty. Since 2014, Literacy Volunteers of Bangor has incorporated the work of Dr. Donna Beegle to become a more poverty informed organization. Dr. Beegle’s work of the culture of poverty and middle class has been incorporated into Literacy Volunteers’ tutor training. Middle class tutors are provided sensitivity training on social class, language and culture for those that live the daily crisis of poverty. The intent is to bridge the communication and understanding between social classes for the tutor-student pair.

Session 8: Opportunity-Ready: Engaging the Incacerated Population through Storytelling – Megan London; Dee Nichols, Ph.D. and Randall Liberty, Commissioner Department of Corrections (Level of focus: Adults)
Eastern Maine Community College, in partnership with the Maine Department of Corrections and a host of local musicians, business leaders and community partners, created the Opportunity-Ready curriculum for delivery to incarcerated individuals through MDOC’s secure tablet vendor Edovo. The pathway encourages individuals to explore their strengths, needs, and future goals through storytelling. Join Megan London of Eastern Maine Community College, Dee Nichols of the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development, and Commissioner of the Department of Corrections Randall Liberty for a conversation to learn more about the curriculum, hear the stories of some of the voices who created the program, and of learners who have accessed the program.