FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Florida is aiming to improve childhood literacy among students who are struggling to read.
Speaking at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 3 into law, which will deliver free, high quality books to the homes of K-5 students who are below their expected reading level.
"It really is a foundation for all of our life skills," DeSantis said. "A child's inability to read early in life has a major negative effect on the quality of the rest of his or her life."
Known officially as the "New Worlds Reading Initiative," the book deliveries will start no later than Dec. 31 for the 2021/22 academic year. Books will be delivered on a monthly basis every school year from October to June.
DeSantis said early illiteracy is tied to higher school dropout rates and lower lifetime earnings.
"Each month, they'll receive a new hardcopy book to their home to help let them read and to improve their skills," DeSantis said.
The governor said the Florida Legislature allocated $200 million from the state's budget to fund the program.
"Unfortunately, statistics show students who have fewer books and literacy-based interactions at home than their peers have lower educational attainment and lifetime income-earning potential," the bill reads. "Programs that deliver books directly to students' homes and support engagement in reading enable parents to develop their child's reading skills and enjoyment of reading and foster improved outcomes for students."
Every school district in Florida will participate in the program and will identify students in need of the free books. The districts will work with local non-profit organizations to coordinate book deliveries to each child's home.
Students will be identified to receive the books if they have a "substantial reading deficiency" or scored below a Level 3 on the preceding year's standardized English Language Arts assessment.
You can read the bill by clicking here.