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November 4, 2005

Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Education Commissioner and Just Read, Florida! Promote Reading Contest at Medieval Times

ORLANDO — Florida Education Commissioner John L. Winn and Just Read, Florida! today joined others from Orlando's Medieval Times dinner attraction for a read aloud program. Students from Central Florida area schools listened as Commissioner Winn joined others in reading a portion of C.S. Lewis' tale, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to promote Just Read, Florida!'s statewide reading in the arts contest focused on the book. The read aloud was followed by a special ceremony during which Commissioner Winn was "knighted" as a "defender of reading" and presented with a sword.

"Today's reading event is an excellent reminder of the value that reading aloud to children holds as it encourages them to become lifelong readers," said Commissioner Winn. "With continued dedication of teachers and parents, we will not only further student achievement but also inspire a greater zeal for reading among our children."

Governor Jeb Bush and First Lady Columba Bush in September launched the Just Read, Florida! reading in the arts contest entitled "Florida's Journey into the Land of Narnia." Designed to promote reading and bring the story to life through the use of art, the contest is open to all students in grades 3 through 12 in public, private and home schools. Winners will be chosen from each of the following three categories:

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

The winners will receive prize packages including a private screening of the movie at the Disney-MGM Studios, a weekend stay at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Resort, dinner at Orlando's Medieval Times, movie memorabilia, passes to Disney-MGM Studios and much more.

"With so many children missing classroom time as a result of this season's hurricanes, it is essential that they continue to spend time reading to maintain momentum in learning," said Just Read, Florida! Director of Special Projects Carolyn Vega. "The reading in the arts contest provides incentives for students by encouraging reading both in and out of the classroom. We are pleased with the participation in the contest so far and with a deadline for submission of November 25, there is still plenty of time to submit entries."

Just Read, Florida! emphasizes the importance of reading in the home and classroom by providing recommended reading lists for families and teachers. The reading lists, available on Just Read, Florida!'s website, are broken down into age-appropriate reading choices and suggestions for the most effective methods for reading with children of various ages. Additionally, specialized reading lists are provided throughout the year including lists for Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, summer reading and the holiday season.

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. Since 1998, the percentage of fourth grade students reading on grade level or higher has increased from 51 percent to 71 percent. The percentage of fourth grade Hispanic students reading on grade level or higher has increased from 38 percent to 66 percent, while the percentage of fourth grade African-American students reading on grade level or higher has grown from 23 percent to 56 percent.

Through the Governor's leadership and strong support from the Legislature, funding for reading has increased from no dedicated reading dollars in 2001 to $143 million in 2005. 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.

For more information on the statewide reading in the arts contest or to learn more about Just Read, Florida!, visit