In Crawfordville Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state is distributing free books to 81,000 students as a childhood literacy initiative prioritized by the House Speaker last Session begins to take root.
DeSantis, accompanied by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, was in Wakulla County to acknowledge Celebrate Literacy Week and to denote the importance of literacy for the young.
“Nearly 90% of the students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling with reading in Grade 3,” DeSantis said.
The Governor lauded Sprowls, who prioritized childhood literacy, with a focus on HB 3 last year.
“It created a program called the New Worlds Reading Initiative,” DeSantis said, noting $177 million of state money went into the program, which kicked into effect this summer.
In total, 81,000 students are in the program and are getting a high-quality hardcover book each month. Parents also are getting literacy training to help them further engage students in reading.
“This is something that will really bear fruit for years and years to come,” DeSantis said.
Sprowls also was enthusiastic about the initiative and Florida’s educational performance in general.
“What really makes a state like Florida not just good but great is to acknowledge where we can be even better,” explained Sprowls, who said that as early as kindergarten, literacy gaps affect some kids.
“If a child can learn to read, they can learn. If they can learn, everything’s possible,” Sprowls said, noting the books are delivered specifically to the child.
“Sixty percent of struggling readers don’t even have a book in the home,” Sprowls noted.
That number will change thanks to this initiative, the “largest book delivery program in America,” per Sprowls.
Corcoran likewise spoke to the program’s virtues.
“The science of reading has to be there,” Corcoran said, noting that the initiative aligned with the Governor’s larger education goals.
“The one component that is absolutely most lost by the generations coming up,” Corcoran added, is “vocabulary.”
Vocabulary and reading comprehension will be improved by this program, the Commissioner asserted.