This summer means more than vacation for young participants of the CDF Freedom Schools® Program.

The CDF Freedom Schools® Program, a nationwide program by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), strives to provide summer enrichment for youth that encourages reading and self-esteem.


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“Close your eyes and think about the words summer school. What comes to mind? If you picture a room full of children clapping, chanting, laughing and learning to fall in love with books and reading, you could be imagining the experience thousands of children across the country are about to have over the next few months as they participate in the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program,” said Marian Wright, President of the CDF.  (

The program offers a creative approach toward minimizing the summer reading gap that often occurs between school years, and offers a unique opportunity for struggling youth.  Rather than falling behind in their education due to a lack of summertime literary stimulation, youth learn to “fall in love” with reading. (

“My husband, JJ Abrams and I have witnessed first-hand the transformative impact of the CDF Freedom Schools on the students, parents, and teachers who participate and we are proud to be a part of the effort,” said CDF Board Member Katie McGrath. (

Though Freedom Schools Programs are located in different areas throughout the country and may differ slightly, all programs are required to incorporate nutritious meals, parent engagement, community outreach, fun, educational activities, and “Harambee,” into their program.  To create a welcoming and safe environment, the program’s mentor-to-child ratio is always 1-10.

All CDF Freedom Schools® Programs run seven hours a day, for five days a week.  Children who participate in the program “read high quality books and are engaged in learning activities that are appropriate to their developmental needs and interests,” and are “supported to dream, set goals for themselves, and cultivate positive attitudes and high expectations.” (

Each day, the program begins with a session of Harambee, a Kiswahili word meaning “let’s pull together.”  The purpose of Harambee is to encourage children and staff to celebrate one another through songs, chants, and cheers. After Harambee, a session of Integrated Reading Curriculum encourages confidence, critical thinking, and literacy.  After a nutritious lunch, the children can often look forward to field trips and activities involving music and dance. (

In California, the CDF Freedom Schools® Program is being held by the Roberts Family Development Center from June 16th until August 1st.  For more information, see here.  To become involved in the CDF Freedom Schools® Program, contact Allison Merfeld at, or click here.