It was all smiles and laughter during the “Game Time” celebration at the UF Champions Club inside the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The UF Lastinger Center hosted the event, which celebrated the second year of the New Worlds Reading Initiative.
The New Worlds Reading Initiative is a program that advances literacy and the love of reading to help students read at a grade level.
It received bipartisan support in the Florida Legislature and was signed into law in June 2021 to serve Florida’s eligible public and charter school students.
The New World’s Reading Initiative was the brainchild of Speaker Chris Sprowls, who has a passion for reading and literacy,” said Dana Trabulsy, a legislator in the Florida House, in an interview. “I have so many families come up to me and say how excited they are to be part of something like this and what a meaningful difference it has made. It is truly life changing.”
The program mails a new book to each eligible enrolled K-5th grade student in Florida each month for free, helps students build a personalized library based on their interests, and provides families with practical, supporting materials that build reading confidence.
“When we launched enrollment in October of 2021, in that first year, we had over 125,000 students enrolled, said Phil Poekert, director of the UF Lastinger Center of Learning, in an interview. “The books come with resources that help their families engage with them through shared storybook readings to build the skill and love for reading.”
Saturday’s event was filled with parents and kids involved in the program, volunteers, and UF student-athletes.
The day featured story time, musical performances, games, activities, and photo ops with Albert and Alberta Gator, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Aja Cromartie and her son and nephew attended the event after joining the program in September.
She boasted about her family’s experience over the last few months with the New World Initiative and was thrilled to attend the event.
“The books are great, and I loved in the initial questionnaire that my son was able to pick his interests and choose the genre of the book,” Cromartie said. “The event is going great. I am so excited to be here and see the stadium, as well as see other families in the program. The welcoming was incredible.”
The New World Initiative is a growing program, and plans and events are currently being discussed for the future.