Helping tomorrow's workforce today

5:41 PM, Aug 21, 2012   |    comments
Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott help launch the ReadingPals literacy initiative. It aims to help students read at grade level by 3rd grade.
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida - Too many young students in Florida's public schools are struggling with reading. The latest reading scores show about 90,000 third graders, or 44 percent, are not reading at grade level.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott helped launch a new program that aims to help students read at grade level by the time they reach 3rd grade. It's called ReadingPals and it enlists the help of hundreds of volunteers to work with struggling readers across the state.

The volunteers will commit one hour a week for at least 25 weeks with one or more children.

Learning to read is crucial for young children. Those who struggle with reading are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

The ReadingPals program is made possible by a $3 million grant from Carol and Barney Barnett of Lakeland. Carol Barnett says the program will encourage volunteers to share their love of reading with young students.

"We can help build Florida's future workforce, allowing us to compete globally. Children who learn to read and love to read will learn and excel in all areas of study, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There certainly is no greater reward than seeing and being with a child who's learning to read. It's amazing."

The money will be distributed to 10 regions of the United Way of Florida over the next three years.

Gov. Scott said his parents always emphasized reading when he was growing up and he surprised the group gathered at the LeRoy Collins Public Library by disclosing he met his wife Ann in a library.

"I met my wife, or the first time I saw her was in a library. I probably shouldn't tell you the story that it's the only time she ever got kicked out of a library because she was talking to me. You were talking to me right? (Ann Scott) Yes, he got me in trouble."

Ann Scott has made reading one of her main priorities as First Lady.

"One of the highlights for me in my job as First Lady is traveling around the state visiting the schools, the libraries, the state parks and sharing my passion for reading with the kids."

If you're interested in becoming a ReadingPals volunteer, contact your local United Way. Volunteers will receive training in a special curriculum that includes lesson plans and step-by-step instructions for reading sessions.

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