The New Worlds Reading Initiative and Our Vision for Florida to Become the Most Literate State in th
By: Dr. Paige Pullen, Chief Academic Officer at the UF Lastinger Center for Learning
When I returned to my alma mater and took on my position at the Lastinger Center in 2017, I presented a case for what I call “a vision for a literate Florida.” My goal, then and now, is to help Florida become number one in the country in terms of literacy rates.
For us to realize this goal, what does it take? This task takes more than providing our teachers with the training and resources they need through our higher education system, and it transcends beyond our schools. It takes a comprehensive ecosystem of all of our Florida communities working together to support our students at every touchpoint.
In 2021, we worked with Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls to start the New Worlds Reading Initiative as one such effort to help us reach this goal and bridge the gap between school and home learning. Created to support K-5th grade students not yet reading on grade level, New World Reading provides eligible students in Florida public and district-sponsored charter schools one free book per month in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, or braille during the school year—for a total of nine books per year, delivered directly to students’ homes. Books also come with literacy activities for families and caregivers to engage with their children on reading and help build their child's language and conversation skills.
New Worlds Reading is just one part of our larger vision for the state. With programs like New Worlds Reading working alongside our school system and communities, I believe we can effectively realize our goal of a more literate Florida.
How can Administrators Support?
The New Worlds Reading Initiative can be leveraged by administrators to bridge the home-school connection. Be sure to rely on the easy-to-use New Worlds Reading Marketing Toolkits to seamlessly introduce the program to your school communities:
- For Superintendents – Share the information in the district toolkit with your school principals and staff to inform them of the program and its applicable resources for students not yet reading on grade level.
- For Teachers – Utilize the resources in the school toolkit to raise awareness of the program to parents and organically introduce the initiative to families with students not yet reading on grade level.
These toolkits contain sample messaging for emails, newsletters, recorded phone calls, your district website, and social media posts. We encourage teachers to share the flyers and other materials with QR codes in this kit with students–and the families of students–who are not yet reading on grade level. These can be shared during parent-teacher conferences, sent home in kids' backpacks, or used at other touchpoints with these families, to enable parents/caregivers to enroll their child.
New World Reading was built to be a comprehensive program—including, but also going beyond, free book delivery to participating students. It was developed with the intention of building a more literate Florida, because every child deserves the opportunity to experience new worlds through reading; it shapes who they are and who they are becoming.
As the Chief Academic Officer behind this program, my goal is to make sure that every district, every school, and every parent or caregiver, is able to take advantage of all of the benefits this program has to offer. To create this cohesive system, we must support teachers and districts with the resources needed to bridge the literacy gap from the classroom to inside the home. With your help and by supporting our state’s youngest readers, I am optimistic that we will soon see and benefit from heightened literacy rates across Florida.
Dr. Paige C. Pullen joins the University of Florida faculty with appointments in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies and the Lastinger Center for Learning. Dr. Pullen comes to UF after 16 years at the University of Virginia (UVA), where she held appointments in the Curry School of Education and the School of Medicine. Dr. Pullen is a triple Gator with her BAE, MEd, and PhD from the University of Florida. She was a public school elementary and reading teacher for 12 years, teaching students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse learning disabilities and abilities. She has been recognized as an outstanding teacher at UVA, receiving the 2011 Seven Society Outstanding Mentor Award and the 2010 Outstanding Professor of the year at Curry. She has served as Publications Chair for the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children and as President of the Virginia Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Pullen is a member of several editorial boards and since 2010 has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Exceptionality, and she is co-editor of the Handbook of Special Education. Dr. Pullen's research has focused primarily on implementing effective interventions for children with or at risk for learning disabilities, especially in the area of reading. She has worked with colleagues from the UVA School of Medicine to provide effective health and educational services to children with disabilities not only at UVA but in rural Southwest Virginia and, most notably, in Lusaka, Zambia, and Gaborone, Botswana in Africa.