New World Reading Scholarship Florida

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New World Reading Scholarship Florida – New World Reading Initiative works to improve children’s reading skills, one free book at a time

The New World Reading Initiative sends one free book per month to children enrolled in the program.

New World Reading Scholarship Florida

New World Reading Scholarship Florida

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If a child can’t read at a third-grade level, there’s a good chance he or she will struggle for the rest of his or her school years and be on track to graduate from high school. In this episode, Shawn Duggins talks about Florida’s New World Reading Initiative, based at the Lastinger Learning Center at UF, and how he hopes to change the path one way at a time. Produced by Nikki Brown, Brooke Adams, Emma Richards and James L. Sullivan. The original music is by Daniel Townsend, a doctoral candidate in music composition at the College of the Arts.

Nikki Brown: The New York Times recently reported an alarming decline in the math and reading skills of nine-year-olds across the country. But here in Florida, there is hope that our state can be a step ahead in taking measures to ensure children are reading at grade level.

Today we’re talking about the New World Reading Initiative and how it helps families improve children’s literacy skills. This is not the only measure taken by the government, but this initiative could be a national model for effectively addressing this problem.

Our guest today is Shanti Duggins, Associate Director of Innovation at the University of Florida Ultimate Learning Center. Welcome Shant!

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Shanti Duggins: Of course. Thus, the Reading New Worlds initiative was created by House Speaker Chris Sproles and received bipartisan support in the Florida legislature and was signed into law in June 2021. And so House Bill 3 created the New World Reading Initiative, a statewide program designed to accelerate reading and improve literacy for K-5 students in our state who are not yet reading at grade level.

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Nikki Brown: The New York Times reported earlier this month that newly released national test results showed the biggest decline in math and reading skills of nine-year-olds in 30 years. Students were tested earlier this year against their scores in 2020, which was before the pandemic, of course. First, why are literacy and math skills so important for nine-year-olds, who are typically in third or fourth grade?

Shanti Duggins is associate director of the New World Reading Initiative at the University of Florida’s Center for Ultimate Learning. Photo credit: Lastinger Training Center.

New World Reading Scholarship Florida

Shanti Duggins: So we know that the primary responsibility of schools is to teach children to read. And reading impacts all other academic areas, but many children don’t actually develop into proficient readers. Therefore, great emphasis is placed on teaching reading effectively because children often have difficulties in this area and this affects not only academically but also economically and other aspects of life.

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Thus, researchers have found that students identified as poor readers by the end of first grade rarely achieve average reading skills. Data shows that children who do not read at a third-grade level are more likely to fail to graduate from high school. That’s why effective reading instruction and intervention is really important for young children. And there is a significant transition from reading to learning to reading to learning. And for most kids, this usually happens by the end of third grade, when kids are about eight or nine years old. And if children don’t read fluently and understand what they read, by the time they reach fourth grade, reading skills are less useful for learning.

Nikki Brown: So are we seeing the same decline in Florida in the data cited by the New York Times?

Shanti Duggins: We actually found it. So nationwide, only 34% of fourth graders in 2019 were reading or proficient in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And only in certain contexts does proficiency represent strong academic performance. In other words, students who have reached this level can read. And only 34% in the entire country. In 2019, 38% of fourth graders in our state of Florida were reading or proficient in reading. And this rate was 41% in 2017 and 39% in 2015. So even though Florida is doing relatively well relative to the country, we’ve seen a decline.

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Nikki Brown: Can you share with our listeners how the New World Reading Initiative works, who is eligible, how families can participate, sign up?

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Shanti Duggins: Of course. So our government is investing in literacy and education, and the New World Reading Initiative is one of those opportunities. And the vision of the New World Reading Initiative is to create home libraries for K-5 students who attend public or publicly funded charter schools and who cannot yet read at grade level. This is our qualification criteria. So families can go to our website and apply, and once eligibility is determined, distribution of the book will begin in October for most students. Regardless of eligibility, students will only receive nine books from October through June. Thus, the aim is once again to create a library at home for children who have not yet started reading books at grade level.

During the registration process, children have the opportunity to choose topics that interest them and we match the titles to these topics. And therefore they have the opportunity to choose something that is interesting to them.

Along with the books we send out, we also provide literacy resources to help caregivers build their self-confidence and skills to support their children at home, because that’s what we want from them. We recognize the value of partnerships, which is why we partner with numerous organizations locally and across the state to raise awareness and support children and families. And then we recently added teacher professional development. And so, through our mini-documentaries, we provide teachers with professional development based on the science of reading and teacher professional development to make home-school connections around literacy.

New World Reading Scholarship Florida

And we are grateful to the state for being a scholarship funding institution, which means corporate taxpayers can make financial contributions to the University of Florida and receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits for Florida’s assessed taxes. And so it really drives innovation beyond the initial investment made by the government. We are so happy that families have the opportunity to purchase books and that we can provide resources to families as well. Our resources are available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, and then this year we added braille nationwide.

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Nicky Brown: Interesting. Can we talk a little about the criteria that make people worthy of this resource?

Shanti Duggins: Of course. Therefore, currently the program is open to students in kindergarten through fifth grade who attend a public or publicly funded charter school and who have not yet begun reading at grade level. And you often think of this as students struggling readers.

The programs allow children to choose books about topics they are interested in, such as STEM, comics, nature and animals. Photo credit: New World Reading Initiative

Nikki Brown: I like that you let students have a say in what topics they’re interested in. Can you share with us what some of the issues are?

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Shanti Duggins: Of course. And some of our topics include STEM, comics, nature, animals, etc. It is located. Students can choose three topics that interest them, and then we match books with those topics.

Nicky Brown: So how do they get the book? Do they ship it home or buy it?

Shanti Duggins: That’s the good part. It is delivered directly to their home. What we hear from families and children is that they love this aspect of it. And so they appeal to the child, they go to the mailbox every month. They grab their bag, open it and there is a book and resources for them. One child said: “It’s like getting a gift in the mail every month.”

New World Reading Scholarship Florida

Nicky Brown: It’s excitement. . . Yes, it’s really great! And I think it’s also about normalizing reading at home, creating your own style of reading, and really making it part of home life. In a column recently published in the Miami Herald, you said that families should develop such a home education program. You can say very little

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