House Speaker Chris Sprowls hopes free books will help close childhood literacy gap

sprowls, chris - zoom
Sprowls would like to see all kids reading 20 minutes per day.

On a day when Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out what was by far his biggest budget, the House Speaker was otherwise occupied, focused on what he called a “pivotal piece of legislation” from his own office.

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls rolled out a priority childhood literacy initiative to “close the achievement gap,” via HB 3, new legislation filed Thursday and sponsored by Rep. Dana Lee Trabulsy of Fort Pierce.

The bill would provide free books for academically struggling K-5 students, with a goal of giving parents some help in solving their children’s literacy challenges.

Sprowls was joined by fellow Republican legislators Thursday to talk about the importance of driving early childhood literacy. The presumption, as Sprowls put it, is that “access to books can change a child’s life.”

“I challenged my colleagues to really put this pathway into place into literacy, into reading books to tackle this problem we’re having with literacy,” Sprowls said.

Sprowls noted that “although Florida has made amazing strides over the last couple of decades in reading, that if we remained on current trends that it would take 230 years for every child in the state to read at grade level.”

HB 3, Sprowls said, would help “close the achievement gap,” providing “high-quality, hard copy books” to get students who struggle with reading excited about “experiencing new worlds.”

The goal, asserted Sprowls, is to help parents by offering “programming and resources” to help achieve a modest goal that could have a big payoff: “Trying to get children to read 20 minutes a day.”

That’s important, said Sprowls, “because if we achieve that goal, all the data shows that those children do in fact read on grade level.”

Rep. Chris Latvala, who chairs the House Education and Employment Committee, enthused about the “landmark legislation” that would empower parents to help their children develop literacy skills.

“The Speaker understands the strong link between reading and achievement,” the Clearwater Republican said, noting the strong correlation between reading below grade level in third grade and failing to graduate high school.

Rep. Vance Aloupis of Miami also raved about the initiative. Aloupis, who chairs the Early Learning and Childhood Education Subcommittee, said he had “never seen leadership like from Speaker Sprowls and Rep. Latvala on this issue.”

Rep. Trabulsy likewise was enthusiastic, saying that HB 3 would put “hard copy books into the hands of Florida students who may be struggling.”

The bill proposes a 50/50 cost share between the state and local partners, and envisions books being delivered to eligible students from at least October through June. The legislation also calls for marketing initiatives to drive adoption in local school districts.

Sprowls also rolled out what he called a “separate partnership” with Age of Learning , which is offering free access to its digital library to all students through the end of 2021, via ReadingIq.com/NewWorlds.

The bill likely will be on a good path in the Senate and to the Governor’s desk. Sen. Danny Burgess, recently removed from a stint in the Governor’s Office, is carrying the Senate companion.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


One comment

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    January 28, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    Wow. If children aren’t even reading “20 minutes per day” WTF are they doing with their time? When I was growing up I read 20 HOURS a day. Still do.

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