Top Notch Literacy Training in Churches Prevents Summer Slide
By Lindsay Peyton
HYPE Freedom Schools are built around stopping the summer slide — that detrimental loss of learning that occurs over the break from the school. The program also instills a love of reading that can last way into the future. The TAC is hosting four Freedom Schools this summer – and doing its part to enrich children from the community.
Freedom Schools were developed by the Children’s Defense Fund and are rooted in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964.
“The purpose is to prevent the summer slide in predominately underserved children,” said the Rev. Jill Daniel, who heads the “We Love All God’s Children” initiative at the TAC. “It also helps foster a love of learning and reading in children who might not typically be challenged in that way.”
She first learned about the program, because it was offered at Blueridge UMC, Houston and she went for a visit.
“When I saw the program, I was blown away,” she said. “We have to do this. We have to open more.”
In addition to helping children, she explained, college students become classroom teachers and receive top-notch training for the program. “To put this on your resume would change your life forever,” Daniel said.
This year, the TAC announced that it would open three more Freedom Schools in three different districts – Jones Memorial UMC in Houston, McCabe Roberts Avenue UMC Beaumont and Hope Church Pearland. In addition, Blueridge UMC will keep its program running.
All four schools opened on June 17 and will run through July 25.
“We hope even more churches come on board, so we can open even more,” Daniel said.
The Rev. Enid Henderson, associate pastor of Jones Memorial UMC, said that she jumped into action when she found out about the chance to host Freedom Schools for the summer.
“We see the disparity in our own community,” she said. “So, this is a wonderful opportunity for us. We’re passionate about the children in our community and supporting them.”
Henderson also visited Blueridge UMC and learned how much children benefitted from the program. The idea struck a chord. “I have to blame it on my parents – in a good way,” she said.
One of her early memories is joining her parents as they drove around the neighborhood in the summer and pick up children to offer free lunches and educational activities. “They opened the doors for anyone in the community who wanted to come in,” Henderson recalled.
She heard that the Texas Annual Conference would be hosting more Freedom Schools this summer and expressed her interest in signing up. “When this opportunity came up, it was hand and glove, a perfect fit,” she said.
Jones Memorial went to work painting walls and preparing classrooms, as soon as they heard the good news that the church was accepted.
“It will make such a huge difference in the kids’ lives,” Henderson said. “When I think of what they accomplished at Blueridge, I’d like it to be something we offer summer after summer.”
Freedom Schools implement a curriculum developed by the Children’s Defense Fund that provides summer and after-school enrichment, which helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. Freedom Schools offer nurturing learning environments using a model curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: 1) high-quality academic enrichment; 2) parent and family involvement; 3) civic engagement and social action; 4) intergenerational leadership development; and 5) nutrition, health, and mental health.