The CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer enrichment through a research-based and multicultural curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high-quality academic enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational leadership development, and nutrition, health and mental health. The CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates positive attitudes toward learning, and connects the needs of children and families to resources in their communities. At the center of the program is the Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) which engages children in books that reflect diverse cultural images and history. IRC encompasses cooperative learning, role-playing, group discussion, and creative writing. Through the program, our students (called “scholars”) build their personal libraries, establish dedicated reading times, and become energized for learning through the morning pep rally (“Harambee”) which includes singing, cheers and chants, and guest readers from the wider community.
The impact on the scholars is profound. In 2012, a four-year study of children enrolled at CDF Freedom Schools sites in Charlotte, NC found over 90% of the children showed no summer learning loss, and 63% showed gains in reading and reading comprehension. Data from national Freedom Schools sites from summer of 2016 show a .66 grade level increase in reading and reading comprehension from beginning to end of the six-week summer program. Beyond the numbers, enthusiasm for reading and for the overarching theme, “I Can Make a Difference” is evident after a first visit to Harambee at one of our sites. By the end of the summer, our scholars are infused with stories and ideas that provide a long-term foundation for the great things they can be and do.