Reading out loud and celebrating the power within at Freedom Schools

There were laughs, smiles, and cheers from the group of about 50 students, ages five to 13 years old, who sat mesmerized as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas flipped the pages and read Dylan Pritchett’s The First Music aloud at First Church of God’s Freedom School summer literacy program in Inglewood.

Students shared their favorite types of music with the Supervisor, sang and chanted motional songs and even showed off their acting and vocal skills by narrating the book through sound effects as the Supervisor read out loud. It was a morning filled with joy and the love of learning.

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Throughout the six-week literacy and enrichment program, the Supervisor will be visiting and interacting with students at each of the four Freedom School sites in the second district: First Church of God in Inglewood; First New Christian Fellowship in South L.A., Bethel A.M.E. Church in South L.A. and Community Coalition at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A. To date, over 200 students have enrolled into the second district summer program.

As part of the Freedom School Curriculum, all students read books, participate in arts, crafts, dance, sports and music, go on field trips, and engage in community service in a nurturing environment that fosters growth and development.

[pullquote_right]”This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right]Freedom School’s were established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman. They provide rigorous,  quality summer and after school instruction to children who live in urban areas. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

The program is rooted in the work of the Civil Rights movement, specifically the work of college-age youth during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Schools apply an intergenerational approach in which college students are trained as “Servant Leader Interns” who work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

Last summer, the Children Defense Fund Freedom School program served over 9,600 children in 84 cities and 29 states, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, worked with Edelman to introduce the program to the Second District last July.

“This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.”  Not only do the children have a wonderful time — I didn’t see a single child today who wasn’t fully engaged and enthusiastic — but the Freedom School curriculum instills tools that are essential to lifelong personal and community empowerment.”

General Press Release (PDF)
First Church of God Freedom School (Photo Slideshow)
Bethel AME Church Freedom School (Photo Slideshow)