Chris Sprowls: For first time ever, Florida is tackling illiteracy at the doorstep

'Florida students have more opportunities to read, to learn, and to succeed because of the work we’re doing in the Florida House.'

As Celebrate Literacy, Florida! Week comes to an end, it is the perfect time to reflect on and share the vision of the Florida House of Representatives to help ensure that Florida’s children are reading on grade level.

When I took office as Speaker, Florida ranked sixth in the nation in fourth grade reading. I decided that wasn’t good enough. Why? Because when we started looking carefully at the data and analyzing what it meant for our future, we found that it might be 230 years before every child in Florida was reading on grade level. I’m not willing to wait that long.

So, starting last year, the Florida House set out to champion literacy like no other state legislative body has done. Now, it’s important to talk about these programs so that every Florida parent can know and take advantage of the good things happening in our state for children’s literacy.

Nearly half of students beginning elementary school are not academically prepared for kindergarten, and 43% of Florida’s 3rd grade students are reading below grade level based on statewide assessments. To identify the challenges in the elementary school system, we established the RAISE program in House Bill 7011. Sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, the program identifies schools with low reading performance and provides support through regional literacy teams.

Research also shows that we have to reach children early in development to ensure that they can be prepared for success when it comes time to learn to read. Rep. Erin Grall tackled the issue of accountability in our voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) programs last Session to ensure that there is a comprehensive alignment of programs from birth through VPK. It allows for the early identification of deficiencies and provides solutions for early learning coalitions and child care facilities.

Research shows us that 88% of high schoolers who don’t graduate were struggling readers in third grade. We looked at struggling K-5th grade readers in the state, and we found that many of them don’t even own a book in their homes. We knew that was the pressure point — that is where we are failing our kids.

So, we created the New Worlds Reading Initiative, the largest state-funded free book delivery program for kids in the nation. Last year’s House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Dana Trabulsy, created a program with one goal in mind: a book delivery program that partners with students and families to build personalized, at-home libraries. This initiative empowers parents by providing resources to help improve their child’s reading skills and instill a love of reading that will expand their imagination and futures.

In December and January, our first free books were delivered to the doorsteps of over 80,000 struggling readers, on topics they chose and on their grade level. As a kid, I can’t think of anything more exciting than receiving a package in the mail with your name on it — with the New Worlds Reading Initiative, they’ll get a book every single month.

We’ve also worked with the Lastinger Center to provide parents materials to help them engage with their children on reading. Parents can visit for more information about this exciting new program and to register their child.

Finally, while we believe in the power of reading, we also know that every child should have the opportunity to learn in an environment that best suits their learning style. That’s why we passed the largest school choice expansion in the nation last Session, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine.

From birth through high school and beyond, Florida students have more opportunities to read, to learn, and to succeed because of the work we’re doing in the Florida House.


Chris Sprowls serves as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Guest Author


  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    January 29, 2022 at 7:30 am

    Unless you’re using direct explicit systematic phonics to teach reading it will all be for naught

    • nail

      January 29, 2022 at 1:55 pm

      Don’t worry Charlotte, DeSantis’ goal is to ban all the books that he and his uneducated base do not like. It helps to keep the kids under control. This is how Hilter started.
      TX has 600 books they are going to ban. DeSantis hates to be one uped by Abbott, so I am going to bet, he will have more than TX. DeSantis burned books last year at a grammar school. This was to impress those willingly stupid that have never read a book.
      DeSantis, like all the radicals, want to eradicate CRT which is not taught in schools. But you know all those black writers, they have to go also. They may intimidate all those little white kids that will take offense if they learn that blacks were slaves.
      UF is hanging on not to lose their accreditation because of DeSantis. He did not want 3 Professors to expose how wrong his voting bill is. So DeSantis did the usual, he threatened the school. He would pull funds, which by the way he can’t, but he said he would if the college let the Professors testify as experts. The college was sued, they lost, the judge asked them if they thought Fl was “China.”
      DeSantis is convicted to the fact that FL should be a test in the US. Fl will be the first Authoritarian state in the country.
      This state is becoming the laughing stock of the would. When a reporter friend calls me from Italy and asks how can DeSantis hire a person who does not believe in science as our Surgeon General, you would think we have a problem. But apparently not the GQP crew that follow DeSantis around licking his legs.

      So Charlotte, don’t worry about the kids. Fl school system rates at 45th in the country. Yes, DeSantis and his minions will say it is less but what they did not tell you was that was based on a 10 yr plan. Check the Dept of Education. Year 3, and we have slipped to worse than yr one.
      But there are no worries because soon we will have no young people. The housing costs are so outrageous the younger one having kids, they are moving out of state. They don’t want to work 2 jobs, try to pay for day care, and try to buy food. This from a neighbors 34 year old son as they came to say goodbye. As fast as the older ppl move in the younger are moving out.
      I head up a dept with almost 100 ppl. We pay very well, especially by FL standards. I hire a new grad at $60,000 to start. I can’t find a new grad. The move as soon as they graduate. The average age is 55. I have no problem with age but my NY bosses want those that will grow not die.
      We have deepening problems in this state. But DeSantis was very busy this week. He had to rant that he could no longer give ppl meds that do not work and he had to oversee that the state dessert was sanctioned. Strawberry shortcake. It used to be Key Lime Pie, DeSantis does not like Key Limes.

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