CLiF’s very first meeting in 1998

In 1997, Duncan McDougall sat in his Boston office wondering what to do with his life.

Duncan had an MBA and was in his seventh year working as a management consultant, assisting corporate clients across North America and Europe. He enjoyed the work, but felt he wanted to make more of a positive contribution to the world.

In years past, he’d been a writer and teacher, and had tutored refugees. He loved working with children, and had witnessed first-hand the transformative impact literacy skills had on children’s likelihood of success in school, work, and life. He took a deep breath, quit his job, and began planning the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF).

Duncan decided his service area would be his two favorite states – New Hampshire and Vermont – and that his target audience would be children up to age 12, who were at greater risk of growing up with low literacy skills.

He moved to an old farmhouse in Etna, NH and started his research. Over the next six months he interviewed almost 200 teachers, principals, librarians, publishers, and literacy program directors across the Twin states to determine the unmet needs in that region. Eighteen individuals from that group became founding CLiF directors or CLiF advisors.

When CLiF began in March, 1998, Duncan served as volunteer executive director and the only staff member.

CLiF’s first program – providing new children’s books and presentations to rural public libraries – was a great success, and soon CLiF advisors and directors proposed ideas for other programs: author/illustrator visits to rural elementary schools, bookmobile sponsorships, writing workshops for rural children, books and stories for children and families in homeless shelters, and more.

CLiF has grown steadily every year since then. We currently have six staff members, 23 directors and advisors, more than 60 professional presenters, many energetic volunteers, and more than 750 donors.

In March 2023, Duncan stepped down as founding executive director after 25 years of leadership, and Laura Rice became the second executive director in CLiF history.

Together, we have provided a wide variety of free literacy programs to more than 350,000 children in 430 towns across the Twin States. We hope you will join us!

CLiF has served over 350,000 children since 1998.

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