A Senate subcommittee blessed a bill Wednesday that would establish a book delivery program for elementary students with reading difficulties.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education advanced the bill (SB 1372) unanimously. Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills is the bill sponsor.
The proposal would create Florida’s first statewide book distribution program for students.
The voluntary program, New Worlds Reading Initiative, would deliver books at no cost to the homes of elementary students who read below grade level.
According to the bill, state and local partners would share program expenses evenly. Under the bill, the proposed delivery service would be available throughout the school year.
Charter schools located in a non-participating school district, meanwhile, would be permitted to apply independently.
The bill further stipulates that the Department of Education or a third-party contractor must administer the program. It also calls for marketing initiatives to increase school district adoption.
Speaking to members, Burgess noted that 43% of third-grade students in Florida read below grade level.
“That’s a problem,” Burgess said.
Moreover, students who read below grade level at the end of third grade are less likely to graduate high school by age 19, according to a staff analysis.
“You can’t learn if you can’t read, and this will help that narrative,” said Chairman Doug Broxson, a Gulf Breeze Republican.
Burgess’ bill will appear next at the Senate Appropriations Committee for its final panel stop.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.
Meanwhile, the House companion (HB 3), sponsored by Rep. Dana Lee Trabulsy, is slated for a hearing in the Education and Employment Committee for its final stop before the floor.
In January, House Speaker Chris Sprowls praised the idea at a press conference.
He contended that “access to books can change a child’s life.” He also suggested the proposal could “close the achievement gap.”