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Legislation allowing free books for struggling readers heading to governor’s desk

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - More than a half million Florida school students in grades K-5 are eligible to receive a new book in the mail at least once a month under legislation waiting for the Governor’s signature.

The state’s first ever book distribution program is designed to help struggling readers.

Florida’s latest test results show four in ten third graders are reading below grade level, and that nearly half of all arriving kindergarten students aren’t ready to enter school.

It spells future problems.

“If you interview people in prison, you know, they don’t have reading skills. And so, good reading skills is really the lifeline to a productive life,” said early childhood educator Dr. Mimi Graham.

Enter the New World Reading Initiative, which passed both the Florida House and Senate with unanimous support.

Under the legislation, over a half million struggling readers are eligible to receive one hard cover book a month free of charge.

The first books must go out before the end of the year.

“What this will do is identify the underperforming readers,” said House sponsor of the legislation Representative Dana Trabulsy.

She likened the program to the weekly reader that arrived at home when most of today’s parents were kids.

“For a child its just exciting to know that something is coming just for you. So, hopefully, that’s going to spark their interest and make them want to dive into the book,” said Trabulsy.

There’s $200 million in the state budget this year to get the program off the ground.

After that, corporations will get a tax break for contributing.

One criticism of the program from educators is that it does not partner will local or school libraries.

Scott Mazur, President of the Leon County Teachers Association believes the program is a big step in the right direction.

“Early prevention is the key to making sure that students have access and are able to approach literature appropriately,” said Mazur.

A 2011 study titled ‘Double Jeopardy’ found that a whopping 88 percent of high school dropouts were already struggling with reading when they were in the third grade.

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