“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”—Stephen King

Reading is at the heart of Freedom School, and it creates the foundation for everything we do. Academic strength is built on literacy, and our scholars gain the skills (and passion!) to become lifelong readers and learners.

We partner with the Children’s Defense Fund and utilize an integrated reading curriculum (IRC) that includes intentionally curated selections that engage children in books that reflect diverse cultural images and history. This allows scholars to see themselves in the heroes and heroines of the texts they read. The IRC primarily focuses on meaning-focused literacy skills (vocabulary development and reading comprehension) and incorporates active reading into daily instruction. Lessons in the IRC consist of self and community empowerment skill development, with opportunities for social action and civic engagement, and conflict resolution strategies. Scholars participate in cooperative learning, role-playing, group discussion and creative writing, while engaging in dedicated reading times and building personal libraries.

80% of children maintained or gained reading ability during Freedom School in 2023. And after attending Freedom School, 97% of parents reported an increase in their child’s confidence in their reading ability.

In addition to teaching literacy skills, Freedom School emphasizes:

Social-emotional skills

Scholars build social and emotional skills by participating in activities that promote resilience, cooperation, conflict resolution and self-control—all of which have been linked to success.

STEAM activities

Scholars take part in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) activities in the afternoon, which may include field trips, cultural immersion and team building.


Strong, healthy and consistent relationships help children realize their potential. In addition to college students (Servant Leader Interns) who serve as classroom leaders at a ratio of one intern to ten scholars, parents participate as volunteers to show children they support their learning and experiences. Healthy meals, transportation and daily encouragement provide children with emotional and physical security.


Every day begins with Harambee!—a high-energy celebration of reading, learning and every child’s ability to succeed. This is an inspiring time filled with songs, dance, cheers and chants and featuring a guest reader from the community.

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Together, we can equip a generation of Charlotte-area scholars with the tools they need to succeed in school and in life. The good news is that we can all play a part. Donate to the mission. Volunteer your time. Register your students.