A glance inside Iowa’s first civil rights-era CDF Freedom Colleges

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – More than 30 middle school students from Cedar Rapids and the surrounding cities are participating in a summer program linked to the 1960s civil rights movement.

This is the first time Iowa has had the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom School Program. The aim is to prevent reading losses in summer, especially in Black and Brown communities. The non-profit Tanager Place runs the month-long program at McKinley Middle School in Cedar Rapids.

Isaiah Miller wants his reading skills to be good when he enters sixth grade this fall.

“A lot of people don’t like to study over the summer,” he said. “It can be fun at times and boring at times, but I still like to study so that I have a good mindset.”

He enjoys reading about inspirational characters and people who look like him.

Tanager Place has the kids read about a diverse set of characters for the program. Miller says he really wants a good education.

“It will help you a lot in the future to get scholarships,” he said. “And lots of good things in college, good colleges to go to.”

An average day at McKinley this summer includes breakfast, some chanting and cheering, reading, lunch, a break, and some type of social activity or field trip. The children are divided according to reading levels. They talk to a teacher about the assigned book they are reading. The program runs Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“I think it will help them see that this is something they can do and make them more confident in reading,” said teacher Jada Grubbs. “Because a lot of the kids we had here weren’t sure how to read. They didn’t want to read popcorn, they didn’t want to read aloud, they wanted us to read to them. “

Grubbs reads the book Chess Rumble with her students. She uses the experiences from the book to talk about important topics.

“Talk about black communities and mental health households and the like,” she said. “Many of our children already know about such things. They talk to us about social activism, the Black Lives Matter movement and the like. “

The program runs until July 23.

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