BATON ROUGE – The Center for Literacy & Learning has awarded its annual Literacy Advocate of the Year award to Louisiana State Sen. Robert Mills (R-Minden) for helping advance the vision of empowering everyone through literacy. Senator Mills represents Senate District 36, which encompasses Bienville, Bossier, Claiborne and Webster parishes.
The award was presented during Literacy Day at the Louisiana State Capitol on Wednesday, May 4. Louisiana State Rep. Jason Hughes (D-N.O.) was also recognized with the award in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Both the Louisiana House and Senate designated the day as Literacy Day to recognize The Center for their work on improving reading proficiency in all of Louisiana’s students, as well as bring attention to the work and policy changes that still need to be made to continue improvement.
“We appreciate the overwhelming support of the Legislature as we work to put in place legislative and policy changes that will help us increase the state’s literacy rates,” said The Center’s President and CEO John E. Wyble, Ph.D. “It is through the work of legislators like Senator Mills that we will break the cycle of illiteracy and realize our vision that everyone is empowered through literacy.”
During the 2021 Legislative Session, Sen. Mills sponsored SB 216, which put into place requirements for kindergarten through third-grade teachers, as well as administrators at the school to complete a foundational literacy skills instruction course. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards, also put requirements in place for teachers and newly hired teachers to complete professional development courses based on the science of reading.
As part of Literacy Day, the Center for Literacy & Learning provided every member of the Louisiana legislature with a children’s book written by a Louisiana author and/or with a focus on Louisiana. Also, various partners and stakeholders provided information to legislators, stakeholders, and the general public through various displays occupying the Capitol Rotunda for the day.
Louisiana ranks 49th in literacy among the nation with only 1 out of every 4 fourth graders reading proficiently, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The pilot program is widely regarded as an important first step toward implementing comprehensive reforms modeled after the state of Mississippi, which currently leads the nation in student growth for literacy.
In January 2020, the Early Literacy Commission released a report of recommendations that urged the legislature to commit recurring funding specifically for literacy. The Early Literacy Commission was legislatively created in 2019, led by the efforts of the Center for Literacy & Learning in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education.