CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla. — In honor of the 14th annual "Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida," Gov. Ron DeSantis says 81,000 school-age children will receive free books throughout the state to improve literacy.
The announcement was part of what he and other state leaders say is a renewed focus on early literacy in Florida.
DeSantis, along with House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, spoke at Riversink Elementary School in Crawfordville, a city in the Florida Panhandle.
The free books are part of the New Worlds Reading Initiative, a book-delivery program created during last year's legislative session, according to a release.
DeSantis says more than 81,000 students are already enrolled and are getting one free, hard-copy book every month to improve their reading skills.
The program is aimed at K-5 students and in December 2021 began distributing books to enrolled children.
“One of the most important things we can do to put students on the path toward success is making sure they develop literacy skills early in life,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Our goal is to make Florida the number one state in the nation for literacy because the benefits of reading stay with our children for the rest of their lives. It was great to highlight a program today that has already begun delivering more than 80,000 books a month to students across our state.”
The program was championed by Sprowls, DeSantis said.
“If a child can read, they can learn. If they can learn, then anything is possible,” said Sprowls in a statement. “I am extremely proud of the hard work of the Florida House and our partners in the Senate last session to ensure that every child has a home library and every parent has the resources they need to help their child experience new worlds through reading. Seeing thousands of students get excited about receiving their books each month is something to truly celebrate this Celebrate Literacy Week.”
According to the governor's office, research shows 86 percent of students who reach 3rd grade and struggle to read will continue struggling with literacy when they reach 10th grade.
“Literacy is foundational to learning and is one of the most pressing issues facing our students today,” said Corcoran in a statement. “We need to celebrate and encourage literacy because it helps students unlock their true potential. After all, education is freedom – the great equalizer. I deeply appreciate Governor DeSantis’ focus on literacy and putting our students on a path to a great life.”