Children’s Defense Fund “Freedom Schools” Forging Readers and Leaders in Oakland

Oakland Local

August 1, 2013


To enjoy reading, it helps to read a good book. If you’re a kid, reading becomes even more fun if you can sing the words or dance to them. It’s even better if reading answers questions about life, makes you feel proud to be who you are and reflects and celebrates your African-American culture. Those are the theories behind the Freedom Schools’ summer programs run by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), and they seem to be working well with about 100 children in Oakland this summer. “We read and we learn a lot of stuff,” said seven-year old Aissaade one afternoon at the Freedom School underway in West Oakland at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Her classmate Adon adds, “We read, we do science, we talk about Trayvon.” His favorite part of the day is first thing in the morning, when all the students and teachers, and even some parents, gather in a circle for the “Harambee” time of singing, chanting, reflection and community that starts each day at Freedom School. Harambee means “Let’s pull together” in Swahili. At CDF Freedom Schools around the country, the Harambee circle time is the first part of a well-planned day that includes reading, music, poetry, science and social action.
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