Ron DeSantis lauds new book delivery program amid declining reading levels
Image via Florida Education Foundation.

Public Schools Chancellor Hershel Lyons
Students in the program will receive one book per month.

State lawmakers hope Florida’s new $200 million book delivery program will help improve reading rates among students.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Thursday at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce to laud the passage of the New Worlds Reading Initiative, a $200 million investment to improve child literacy in Florida.

Reading rates among fourth-graders have been declining. After a 12-year period of steady improvement six years ago, Florida’s literacy rates for elementary school children stagnated. Since then, fourth grade reading scores have regressed to where they were from 2007 to 2009, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Under the initiative, a book is delivered on a monthly basis to eligible students enrolled in a participating school district.

“We’re not just talking about any book. In the coming months Commissioner Corcoran and (the) Department of Education will create a selection of high-quality books with diverse subjects for each grade level,” DeSantis said, referring to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Parents are also provided with resources to help improve students’ reading skills.

Students with a substantial reading deficiency or who are reading below grade level based on standardized assessments will be eligible for the program.

“We know that book delivery programs like this are successful, because they engage parents in the process, which helps improve the child’s reading and their overall success in school,” DeSantis said.

Students can start in the program as early as third grade and it continues until sixth grade or until their parent opts out.

The program was a priority for House Speaker Chris Sprowls this past Session. At the bill signing press conference, Sprowls called it “the boldest literacy initiative that any state is pursuing in the United States of America.” Sprowls also thanked DeSantis, calling him the “boldest governor in America.”

Corcoran said the “massive infusion” of cash to improve childhood literacy is needed because of a “flatline” in children’s literacy rates. Corcoran said most of the eligible children don’t have books in their home.

“I know the feeling when I see that Amazon truck come up, and I know it’s a new golf club or something I ordered. I’m like, ‘wow this is fantastic.’ Now that little child who doesn’t even get presents is getting a book a month, and it’s his book, and he’s gonna have his own bookshelf, and by the time he’s done with third grade, he’s got 50 books on a shelf. It’s just a fantastic thing,” Corcoran said.

At the press conference, DeSantis said Florida is also utilizing an additional $71 million of federal funding from the CARES Act to fund and support other early learning literacy initiatives.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for FloridaPolitics.com. Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected]


6 comments

  • Heather Hill

    July 23, 2021 at 9:28 am

    As a Reading Specialist and Librarian, books given to students in need are a great thing. However, if a student is struggling in their reading skills, books alone will not solve that struggle over a 3-4 year timeframe. Throwing money at the problem will not solve it. Balanced literacy instruction and intensive teacher training and coaching on best practices in literacy would go much further in increasing reading performance on standardized tests. Additionally, I wonder who will determine the titles of books to be sent out monthly? As you can well imagine, any publisher will jump at the chance to have one, two, or every book picked from their publishing house. It will be imperative that book choices be made by Reading Specialists, Librarians, and other non-biased literacy professionals with nothing to gain in the choosing of the book. Since the students targeted for these books are reading below grade level, appropriate level books should be chosen, so the students might actually read the book. If the book that arrives is too difficult or not of interest, the likelihood of it being read is vastly diminished. The way in which the entire program will be set up and by whom will ultimately play a large part in the success of the endeavor.

  • Tom

    July 23, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    Heather agreed, I understand your point which is fair. Can we just give the Governor and those associated with this effort some props In encouraging more reading. Just saying.

  • Serissa McAnally

    July 24, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    I worked overseas at a school in Honduras. There were NO resources! Even in my Kindergarten class. Yet some how, the teachers at this school, including my husband (a high school science teacher) managed to teach students with NO resources, only a black board and a text book. And many of the graduates ended up going on to good universities in the United States. Money thrown at fancy new resources, books, programs, and mental health personal is meaningless. More teachers. More hourly teachers. MANY more hourly teachers is ultimately what will turn things around in our schools. Our children need more small groups. They need to be in small groups in every subject throughout the entire school day. Too much whole group instruction going on. And too much time spent in “independent” reading and too much time spent in computer-based learning. No, we need more bodies. More teachers. MANY more teachers.

  • Tom

    July 25, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Ok, well once again this good Governor advocated and raised teacher salaries. He is in process trying to get bonuses out for teachers. Yes, resources are needed. Frankly, the advocates at the NEA and the state group don’t help. Again, one initiative to get books out to encourage reading. Just a positive step. I had to order books for payment as a child to read more or go to library. Just a positive step, My gosh. I’m sure the school system doesn’t have enough waste to address the resources mentioned that are needed.

  • Serissa McAnally

    July 25, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Don’t get me wrong. I voted for DeSantis, and I will vote for him again. He is making some really awesome decisions for our state. Unfortunately, the higher-ups NEVER ask teachers (the people in the trenches) what they really need. And the principals want their schools to look good because that makes them look good, and therefore they suppress vital information from the superintendents (who also like to look good) that would help the higher-ups make the right decisions. It’s a bureaucracy. Buy all the books you want, give classroom teaches raises, but in the end, NOTHING changes. Our students need more individualized attention. And the ONLY way to give them that is to have more bodies, more hourly teachers, more paraprofessionals, all working in small groups with students. Decrease the material resources and increase the human resources.

  • Tom

    July 25, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you Serissa.
    Fair points. I know you love teaching and educating our young ins.
    Our Governor is a wonderful man and is America’s Governor with a loving and young family. We must defend and embrace and pray for he and his family, The haters are powerful and wish Ill. God will defend him. You are right as Gov. is doing wonderful things. I’m so glad you shared your support for him. It made my day. As Governor Ron says, “he’s just begun to fight” Amen. Blessings!

Comments are closed.


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