Duncan McDougall spent part of his 20s guiding expeditions of the physical world—whitewater and backcountry trips in places like Alaska and New Zealand. Since 1998, however, he has been leading expeditions of another kind, guiding children on a journey to literacy.
McDougall, who went on to earn an MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, is founder and executive director of the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF), a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire a love of reading and writing among low-income, at-risk and rural children in Vermont and New Hampshire.
With its Year of the Book program, CLiF gives $25,000 worth of literacy activities to a rural elementary school and, during the course of a year, every student selects 10 new books to keep. CLiF’s other flagship offering is Community Literacy, which provides $50,000 worth of support to a town over a three-year period to foster a culture of reading and writing. The money goes toward grants for literacy materials and programs, new books for public and school libraries, visits by children’s book authors and illustrators, and new books for kids to select.
“By the end, children are inspired by stories, reading and writing, and have the resources around them to help move them forward,” says McDougall.
McDougall, who lives in Waterbury Center, Vermont, has given presentations at 16 state prisons to teach men and women the importance of sharing books with their children. CLiF donates libraries for family visiting rooms, conducts storytelling with inmates and their families, and allows inmates to record themselves reading and send the books and recordings home to their kids.
In 16 years CLiF, which is funded solely through private donations, has reached more than 150,000 children and handed out more than $3 million in new books. “We’ve never received a penny from state or federal governments,” McDougall says proudly.
This story has been adapted with permission from an article that originally appeared on the Tuck School of Business website.