NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York State Education Department officials on Tuesday said they will require all kindergarten students in New York City to read books before they enter kindergarten, but will allow schools to choose a reading program for the entire kindergarten year.
Schools have until April 28 to decide whether to implement the new rule, which comes as schools in more than two dozen U.S. states have been adopting school standards for their schools.
The move comes after a rash of kindergarten shootings that have killed five students and wounded 11 in recent months and has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump and his administration.
“It is important that our children have access to a broad range of literacy content,” New York state Education Commissioner Michelle Rhee said in a statement.
“If a child does not meet our standards, they are not learning their values, and we want them to understand that their peers, and our educators, have the power to help them achieve their goals.”
I want our schools to have the best learning environments and to be the most resilient schools they can be,” Rhee added.
The department will work with community leaders to ensure the new mandate is “consistent with the best interests of our students.””
We will also be working with other states to implement similar initiatives,” the department said.
The proposal, which would take effect in 2019, will require that kindergarteners in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut also read a reading book.
It would also require that preschoolers and elementary students read a variety of books and that teachers, principals and administrators work with parents and guardians to make sure children understand the content of the books and understand the importance of reading to them.
Rhee also announced plans to increase funding for literacy programs in all of the state’s schools.
In addition, the state will expand support for literacy education by offering up to $200 million to states that have passed new literacy standards.
New York State also has set new standards for reading and writing in schools, including a requirement that students be able to read an alphabetical list of common words by the end of third grade and that they complete an eighth-grade reading comprehension test by the start of eighth grade.
The state is also adding a second reading literacy test to kindergarten, which will require students to pass by the beginning of eighth-graders fifth grade.
The plan comes as the number of kindergartens in New England has risen by almost 30 percent since last year.
New England was the first state to require kindergartners to read to pass its reading standards.
In 2018, New Hampshire passed a similar law.