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October 21, 2005

Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Just Read, Florida! and Florida Film Commissioner Participate in Orlando Reading Event

ORLANDO — Just Read, Florida! and Florida Film Commissioner Paul Sirmons today participated in a read aloud program at the Orlando Public Library to promote Just Read, Florida!'s statewide reading in the arts contest focused on the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. Commissioner Sirmons read excerpts from the book to Orange and Seminole County school children.

"Since it was first published in 1950, this book has captured the imaginations and hearts of children and adults around the world," said Commissioner Sirmons, "and it's only gotten better with time. I'm confident that it will not only inspire a new generation of readers, but perhaps some great writers as well. By using a book that is being made into a major motion picture, we can reach even more of Florida's youth and show them the magic and power of the written word."

Launched last month, the statewide contest coincides with the nationwide release of the Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media film adaptation of the renowned story on December 9, 2005. The contest, "Florida's Journey into the Land of Narnia," is open to all in public, private and home schools students in grades 3 through 12. Three winners will be chosen based on the following categories:

  • Elementary School, Grades 3-5: Short Essay Contest
  • Middle School, Grades 6-8: Illustration Contest
  • High School, Grades 9-12: Short Video Contest

Today's event marked the first stop in Walden Media's multi-city exhibit tour showcasing film memorabilia consisting of larger than life statues of characters, costumes, props, and a preview of the movie trailer and behind the scenes footage. Children attending the event were then given the opportunity to tour the exhibits and participate in educational activities. The exhibit, which will remain at the Orlando Public Library through October 24, is free and open to the public.

"Governor Bush's statewide reading initiative is guiding Florida students toward greater achievement levels in reading," said Florida Department of Education Commissioner John L. Winn. "Seeing children's faces light up as the story comes alive before them is priceless and I applaud Governor Bush, First Lady Columba Bush and Just Read, Florida! for their commitment to encouraging reading in both the classroom and at home."

Florida continues to experience improvements in achievement levels in reading. In 2005, 71 percent of all fourth graders are reading at or above grade level, up from 51 percent in 1999. Twice as many African-American and Hispanic fourth graders are reading at or above grade level. According to the results of the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released earlier this week, Florida's fourth grade students continue to improve in reading and exceed national performance levels.

Just Read, Florida! is the Governor's statewide reading initiative to achieve the goal of every child reading at or above grade level by the year 2012. The initiative is designed to guide changes at every level of education that have an impact on reading outcomes in Florida schools. In fiscal year 2005-06, this initiative received $89 million for a K-12 comprehensive, district-wide system of research-based reading instruction with $50,000 minimum for each school district.

Since 2002, Just Read, Florida! has used state and federal funding to provide reading coaches for teachers. Reading coaches serve teachers through modeling lessons, delivering professional development, analyzing data, and administering assessments. For the 2005-06 school year, approximately 2,000 K-12 reading coaches will serve approximately 80,000 teachers and nearly 1.7 million students statewide.

For additional information on the statewide reading in the arts contest or to learn more about the Just Read, Florida! initiative, visit Contest entries must be postmarked to designated entry submission locations no later than 5:00 PM EST on Friday, November 25, 2005.