Florida is beginning the largest book distribution program in America.
Called the New Worlds Reading Initiative, more than 81,000 students are already in the program and are receiving one free, hard-copy book per month to help improve their reading skills, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Tuesday at Riversink Elementary School in Wakulla County.
DeSantis handed out colorfully illustrated copies of the book “Swimmy” at the school. The book is about creatures that overcome danger with ingenuity and teamwork.
The governor watched as one student read a pledge to read every day, concluding, “I’m feeding my brain what it needs every day.”
“Wow, great job,” complimented the governor.
DeSantis then told reporters: “Nearly 90% of the students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling with reading by grade three.”
This year’s budget has $177 million in this year’s budget for the New World’s Reading Initiative, which DeSantis signed into law in June 2021. It’s the brainchild of Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
“If a child can learn to read, they can learn. If they can learn, everything becomes possible,” said Sprowls.
After the initial funding runs out, corporations will be able to donate up to $50 million a year to the program and then take a credit against state taxes.
In addition to the books, parents are also being given an entire learning plan that includes text messages and support materials.
Sprowls said parents are a key to the program’s success.
“Engaging the parents in a real way, so that includes getting that communication — here’s a video about the book your kid got, here’s some quality content that will help you read that book to your kid, give you some techniques,’” Sprowls said.
The books are free to families with children in kindergarten through fifth grade who are not reading up to grade level. Nine books a school year will be sent to students’ homes.
To learn more or to enroll your child, go to newworldsreading.com/enroll.