FORT PIERCE, Fla. – A new $200 million program is geared at tackling the problem of early illiteracy and below-level reading for young students in Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis celebrated the signing of House Bill 3 during an appearance in Fort Pierce Thursday.
The governor signed HB 3, creating the “New Worlds Reading Initiative” on June 29, which is the state’s first statewide book distribution program.
As part of the program, children in kindergarten through fifth grade who are reading below grade level will be eligible to receive free books delivered directly to their home.
The governor said the books will cover an array of topics.
“As a father of three young children, I want every child to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential,” DeSantis said. “The biggest difference we can make in setting Florida children up for success is making sure they know how to read. I’m proud to celebrate these investments in literacy today that ensure every student – regardless of their socio-economic status – has access to free, high-quality books.”
According to the governor, 90% of students who fail to earn a high school diploma struggled to read in the third grade. He said studies show it is extremely hard for children to overcome challenges with reading if they are not proficient in reading by the third grade.
“Literacy is foundational to learning and is probably the most pressing issue facing our students today,” Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said. “Education is freedom – the great equalizer. Research shows that providing books to students both empowers parents to engage with their child’s reading activities and improves the student’s reading skills. I deeply appreciate Governor DeSantis’ and legislative leaders’ focus on reading and literacy, and putting our students on a path to a great life.”
Florida is also investing an additional $71 million to fund and support the following literacy initiatives:
♦ $61 million to support direct student interventions, including targeted individual or small group literacy tutoring for students in kindergarten through first grade;
♦ $4 million to provide elementary school principals and assistant principals with effective practices to help them focus on improving literacy within their schools;
♦ $3 million for Literacy Coach Boot Camps to improve the skills and proficiency of literacy coaches; and
♦ $2.8 million to continue statewide progress monitoring through the Department of Education for grades K-8.