Louisiana has been picked to get $55.5 million over three years to aid struggling students improve their literacy skills,  the state Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The federal grant will focus on pre-literacy, reading and writing skills from birth through 12th grade, including those with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities.

The award will total $18.5 million per year for three years.

The state is one of 11 to get the assistance and the only one to collect aid all three times it has been available, the department said.

In a statement, state Superintendent John White said only half of students enter kindergarten ready to learn.

By fourth grade, he said, just 36 percent of students read and write on grade level.

"This grant will accelerate our progress by providing students and families with a strong foundation based in research, and supporting a cadre of reading and writing educator experts across the state," White said.

School systems will be asked to submit applications for the dollars, which will allow local educators to buy high-quality curricula, administer assessments and provide targeted intervention for students reading below grade level.

U. S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, praised the announcement.

“The ability to read is crucial to a young student’s eventual success," Cassidy said in a statement.

"Funding literacy programs like these and taking other legislative action, which includes addressing dyslexia, will help students reach their full potential,” he said.


Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.