Guest Blog: Celebrating Literacy for a Lifetime

K Smith

Guest Blog: Celebrating Literacy for a Lifetime

By Kevin Smith

The most valuable lesson I have learned during my career as a teacher and reading coach is that literacy is the biggest predictor of success. Reading is absolutely fundamental to excel in school and in life.

My mother, a dedicated preschool teacher, understood the importance of literacy skills when she instilled a love of reading in her children.  Because of her example, I was able to terrify my dad by sounding out written words at the tender age of two.

Reading comes easy to me, but as I learned in my first year of teaching emotionally-disabled elementary students, learning to read takes determination and practice. While it was a struggle working with students who had little to no support at home, I will never forget the joy I felt watching students sound out words with confidence.

Learning to read begins long before the first day of school. It begins at home. That is why we are travelling around the state in honor of the department’s fifth annual Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!, encouraging parents and teachers to promote early reading.

As a parent, there are many ways you can help your child build lifelong literacy skills. Show your child how important and enjoyable reading is by reading daily. When reading to your child, pick books that include a rich vocabulary.  When your child sees that you enjoy reading, they will model your good behavior.

Create a special reading place at home with a variety of books so even the youngest family members can choose to read. While your child is in diapers, describe activities to them like tying your shoes or cooking dinner. “Daddy is gathering the chicken broth with a ladle and adding it to the linguine in the silver pot.”

Literacy skill building is not only good for your brain it also creates a closer relationship between parent and child. Just remember to make reading fun, and both you and your child will be lifelong readers.

For more information about the department’s efforts to promote reading, visit Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!

Kevin Smith is the Deputy Director of the Just Read, Florida! office and has been a selected as a “Teacher of the Year” for two different schools during his career.

Commissioner Tony Bennett: Blog: Looking At and Beyond the Scoreboard


To say education is a family interest is an understatement. I’ve spent nearly three decades in education as a science teacher and principal as well as district and state superintendent. My wife, Tina, had a successful career as a teacher and high school principal. Also, one of my daughters, Trisha, recently joined the teaching profession and I could not be more proud. I’m sure many Floridians can relate to this background as it is not unusual to have a family full of educators.

In my opinion, our students are best served in education when parents, educators, and communities communicate on issues facing our classrooms. That is why I will not use a top-down approach to Florida’s education reform. I want to hear from all Floridians because we are all stakeholders in our students’ education. My goal is to utilize the best ideas for student success regardless of their origin. The best change comes from collaboration.

Today, I brought out the infamous student achievement scoreboard that I kept outside my office as Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In my new position as Florida’s Commissioner of Education, I will keep the scoreboard up as a constant reminder to me and my colleagues of the importance of accountability in measuring teacher and student success.

Parents should feel confident that when their child graduates from high school he or she will be ready for today’s competitive environment. In turn, teachers should be praised for the tremendous work they do to transform their classrooms into launching pads for success.

I believe that a strong accountability system must be met with a strong network of resources. Over the next few weeks, I will begin working with Florida’s school and community leaders to determine how we can create a seamless education system.

Great things are ahead for Florida’s students, educators, and parents. If we work together we will create an even brighter future for the Sunshine State. I look forward to sharing in this endeavor with all of you and to building a path of success for all Florida students.