A bill to deliver free books to children struggling academically awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ signature.
Lawmakers delivered that measure to the Governor’s desk Tuesday. The proposal (HB 3), sponsored by Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Fort Pierce Republican, would implement Florida’s first statewide book distribution plan as part of House Speaker Chris Sprowls‘ New Worlds Reading Initiative.
The voluntary program would provide free book delivery to the homes of elementary students who read below grade level. Recipients would get one free book every month for nine months of the year, throughout the school year.
Florida and the state Department of Education must select a state university to administer the program.
The measure would also require school districts to identify eligible students and raise awareness for the initiative. Participating students could annually select book topics and genres at the start of each school year.
Reading assessments in the 2018-19 school year show 43% of third-graders are reading below grade level. Moreover, the Fall 2019 Kindergarten Readiness Screener found that nearly half of the state’s kindergarten-age students aren’t ready to begin classes based on their literacy skills.
“The Legislature finds that the ability to read is fundamental to a productive, fulfilling, culturally rewarding, and civically engaged life,” according to the bill. “Furthermore, a literacy rich home environment helps develop reading and writing skills in young learners to prepare them for future academic and career success.”
The House and Senate passed the measure unanimously.
It’s likely DeSantis will sign the bill. He already approved $200 million for the reading initiative as part of the state’s $101.5 billion budget for the coming fiscal year.
The Governor has already signed a related measure (HB 7011) creating an academic progress monitoring system through eighth grade. The bill also establishes the Reading Achievement Initiative for Scholastic Excellence program. The RAISE program creates a network of regional literacy support teams to enter communities and provide reading support.
DeSantis has until July 8 to sign the bill, which is slated to take effect July 1.