Early Literacy

Prioritize Early Literacy for Lifelong Learning

From kindergarten through third grade, children are learning to read. Then in fourth grade, they transition to use reading to learn. The ability to read opens doors and opportunities each child deserves.  

The Importance of Early Literacy 

By the third grade, students must make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. If they do not, they cannot do their coursework. Each year, as the grade level demands go up, students tend to fall further behind and become outsiders inside the classroom. 

According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children who are not reading proficiently in 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate from high school. For low-income black and Hispanic students, that likelihood doubles. 

Florida’s Comprehensive Early Literacy Policy

Florida’s K-3 Reading policy ensures all students enter fourth grade with the strong literacy skills they will need to learn, graduate and succeed. The comprehensive policy includes:  


Since 1998, Florida’s 4th grade students have moved up approximately two grade levels in reading. In the first decade of the policy, Florida nearly cut illiteracy in half.

Still today, Florida is making progress, outperforming the national average in every subgroup on NAEP 4th Grade Reading in 2019.  

Florida was the first state to implement comprehensive reforms. In recent years, a number of other states have followed Florida’s lead. The result has been a systematic transformation and dramatic improvement in students’ academic achievement. 


How are struggling readers helped by Florida’s K-3 reading policy? 

The school must develop individual progress plans for any K-3 student with a reading deficiency and provide intensive literacy instruction that is different from what the child has already received. This intensive instruction must be provided to all K-3 students at risk of retention as identified by the district or statewide assessment system. 

If my child does poorly on the Florida Standards Assessment, will they have to repeat third grade? 

No child is retained because of one test, on one day. Retaining a student for an additional year of third grade is the last resort if the student is reading significantly below grade level. 

At the end of third grade students are given multiple ways to demonstrate sufficient reading skills for promotion to fourth grade, including the statewide assessment, an alternative standardized assessment, and a test-based student reading portfolio. 

Will I know before the end of my child’s third grade year if he/she is not ready to be promoted?

Florida’s K-3 Reading program identifies students who are struggling to read as early as Kindergarten, with frequent literacy screenings and parent notification/updates on progress over multiple school years. 

Students are given individual reading plans, home reading strategies and reading interventions before/during/after school and progress is monitored and shared at frequent intervals. Only those students who still demonstrate a need for the additional time to learn to read are retained in third grade. 

What happens if my child is retained? 

If your child is retained, the school must provide intensive interventions using effective instructional strategies to improve his or her specific reading deficiency. The school district is required to: 

Early Literacy Resources


Here are just a few of hundreds of resources available to parents to help inspire their young readers.  


In 2018 Florida became the first state in the country to offer an education savings account program for students enrolled in public schools. The Reading Scholarship was created to help public school students in grades 3 through 5 who struggle with reading. The program offers parents access to an educational savings account, worth $500, to pay for tuition and fees related to part-time tutoring, summer and after-school literacy programs, instructional materials and more. More than 2,000 students are currently enrolled on the scholarship with another 2,000 awaiting funding. Learn more about the Reading Scholarship Account Program at Step Up for Students.  


Nearly all kids can become strong readers if they are taught the right way. In fact, research shows that most children—including those identified with reading difficulties—learn to read when teachers deliver explicit and systematic instruction aligned with the science of reading. Learn how this scientifically based reading instruction is helping states ensure all students leave third grade with the reading skills they need to learn, graduate and succeed. Learn more about the science of reading from ExcelinEd.