Since the small western Maine community of Chesterville was established in 1802, the town has never had a library. Without a community library, residents who long for the experience of perusing book stacks and finding just the right titles need to travel to neighboring Wilton or Farmington and pay a membership fee to utilize those libraries and their resources.

But this summer two Chesterville community organizations are coming together to establish a summer reading program for children — a step toward the larger goal of finally bringing a library to town.

To begin promoting literacy within the town, Our Chesterville Community Library and the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House are kicking off the six-week “Summer in Maine” reading program beginning Saturday.

“They have the space and we have the books,” Erin Dyar, president of the Our Chesterville Community Library committee, said. “The benefit of course, is that children are reading through the summer. It’s going to be really fun.”

The program is for children ages 4 to 11 and will feature a different children’s book about Maine at each of the hour and a half long sessions. The program will be held at the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House on Burroughs Road.

In the last 10 years a community effort has been underway to revamp and use the historic meeting house, expanding the use of the building to include an array of secular activities that will benefit Chesterville residents.

“We want this building to be used as a resource for the community,” meetinghouse board member Cynthia Stancioff said. “The reading program seems like a natural fit with that mission.”

A grant from the Maine Community Foundation received by the Chesterville Union Meeting House will cover all material costs for the program, making participation in the program free.

“We’re very excited to see the Meeting House being used by children and this new nonprofit library group. Every new use of the meeting house brings us closer to our vision of the building being regarded as a community center,” board president Carolyn Drugge said in a release about the program.

While the meeting house will not necessarily house the future Chesterville library, this summer’s reading program will establish a miniature library set up on old pews in the corner of the building. The children involved in the reading program, their parents, as well as Chesterville residents, will be able to check out books around the time the sessions begin and end. Dyar said she is working to establish another time when people will be able to check out any of the library’s 400-plus books and encouraged Chesterville residents to follow the library’s Facebook page for updates.

Children in the program are required to check out books to take home after each session. While volunteers will read to the children during the program, requiring them to check out books and keep a book log will help them build on the literacy skills they learned in the sessions. Dyar said this will also expand the impact of the program from children to their parents.

“They have proven over and over again, read to your child and they will eventually read to you,” Dyar said. “Reading is such an easy and affordable way to spend time with your child.”

Our Chesterville Community Library was established in January of this year, and while the end goal is to establish a physical — or mobile — library, Dyar said in the meantime the organization is working to establish literacy programs like the summer reading program, raise funds and expand their book catalog.

The organization has put on several fundraisers in the last six months. Dyar said ultimately, while they are working to establish a physical location, they will be raising money to reimburse Chesterville residents who have to pay a membership fee to use out-of-town libraries. An annual membership to the Wilton Free Public Library costs $20 per household and an annual membership to the Farmington Public Library costs $25 per household.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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