Book delivery bill soars through House subcommittee

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43% of third-grade students in Florida read below grade level, according to a bill analysis.

FLAPOL | by Jason Delgado | February 4, 2021

A House subcommittee advanced legislation Thursday that would establish a book delivery program for elementary students with reading difficulties. 

The Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee advanced HB 3 by an 18-0 vote. Rep. Dana Lee Trabulsy, a Fort Pierce Republican, is the bill sponsor. 

“The essence of this bill is we certainly want our children to read on grade level in order to be successful students and adults,” Trabulsy told members. “But more importantly, we want them to be excited about reading and writing.”

HB 3 would create Florida’s first statewide book distribution program.

The voluntary program, New Worlds Reading Initiative, would provide free book delivery to the homes of elementary students who read below grade level.

According to the bill, state and local partners would split program costs evenly. 

The legislation further calls for marketing initiatives to increase school district adoption. 

The proposed delivery service would be available throughout the school year. 

Notably, House Speaker Chris Sprowls praised HB 3 in January at a press conference.

He contended that “access to books can change a child’s life.”

What’s more, he suggested the proposal could “close the achievement gap.”

According to a bill analysis, 43% of third-grade students in Florida read below grade level.

Chairman Vance Arthur Aloupis noted the need to address literacy levels in Florida.

“The children who are sitting in our third-grade classrooms today, those will be the children who will be going into our state college or state university system in the workforce in 2030,” he told subcommittee members. “Those students who are coming into third grade in 2030, they’re going to be born next year.”

HB 3 will appear next before the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and the Education and Employment Committee.

If signed into law, HB 3 would take effect June 1. 

Republican Sen. Danny Burgess is expected to file a companion bill.

Charter schools located in a nonparticipating school districts would be permitted to apply independently.