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Young students struggle with literacy in Gadsden County; reading program offering free books to help

New Worlds Reading is an at-home reading program for children from VPK to 5th grade who are not reading at their grade level.
Posted at 6:30 PM, Nov 20, 2023
  • New Worlds Reading is an at-home reading program for children from VPK to 5th grade who are not reading at their grade level.
  • In 2021-22 school year, only 29 percent of 3rd graders in Gadsden County were proficient when it comes to reading and writing skills.
  • View the video above to see how to sign up your child for the program.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT
Reading and writing are essential for a students success. The COVID 19 pandemic has left a lasting impact on students who are learning those skills in Gadsden County.

According to the Florida Department of Education, in 2021-22 school year, only 29 percent of 3rd graders in Gadsden County were proficient when it comes to reading and writing skills. That is seven percent lower than before the pandemic which was 36 percent.

"The literacy rate in Gadsden County is very low." It's a mission Grace Talkington is passionate about. She's an educator for New Worlds Reading and is, "doing anything to bring that up and also getting the families involved."

New Worlds Reading is an at-home reading program for children from VPK to 5th grade who are not reading at their grade level. Grace told me that according to Unite for Literacy, Gadsden County is considered a book desert.

"That means that there is a significant amount of households that have less than 100 books and especially in Gadsden County. Those books don't have as much access to diversity or cultural responsiveness to different things."

Kids who qualify for the program can receive free books and reading activities each month during the school year to help develop their reading skills. Right now, the program is recruiting students in Gadsden County due to the proficiency rate being so low.

The program is partnered with the Gadsden County Extension Service in order to reach the families who need this program. "Our mission is to information with our residents of different ages and backgrounds."

Sharlee Whiddon is the family consumer science extension agent at the Gadsden County Extension Service Building. She says improving student literacy is just what the staff wanted to help with by providing a space.

"It's very heartwarming getting to see the residents in my community get their needs met." Right now the organization has five families signed up in Gadsden County, and they are looking for more to join to help children excel.

"Kids' literacy with the parents involvement is so important."

New Worlds Reading is free for families with children VPK through 5th grade who are reading under their grade level. If you are unsure if your child is on grade level, the initiative can check for you. All you have to do is fill out the form on their website.