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The Fierce Urgency of Now: CDF Freedom Schools and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Addressing Diversity in Literacy Instruction

ISBN: 978-1-78714-049-3, eISBN: 978-1-78714-048-6

Publication date: 3 November 2017


We explore how K-8 student scholars experience culturally relevant texts provided during Freedom Schools summer camps, discuss ways Freedom Schools can be a vehicle for youth to become advocates for social change, and consider opportunities created by Freedom Schools for community engagement and partnerships. Mixed methods were used to investigate the experiences of 38 scholars at two different Freedom Schools sites (one rural and one mid-sized urban) in the southeastern U.S. The majority of scholars identified as African American and lived in low-income households. Primary data sources included scholar surveys and reading assessments, camp observations, and interviews with scholars, as well as our own personal reflections as the Research Director (Alysia Roehrig) and Co-Executive Directors (Kristal M. Clemons and Keely Norris) for the sites. We triangulated descriptive statistics from surveys with qualitative data, primarily from interviews, which we analyzed using open coding and axial coding to develop themes (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The majority of scholars, who participated in the 2016 North Florida Freedom Schools, reported being able to identify with specific characters and situations in the books included in the culturally relevant reading summer program, and they expressed positive thoughts and feelings about the books. Most scholars (74%) maintained or gained in instructional reading levels and did not experience summer learning loss. Children’s confidence that they could act prosocially also increased significantly during the summer camps, which children characterized as different from regular school. Freedom Schools can offer a valuable forum for diverse community members to learn about one another, focus on their strengths, and become agents for social change. We provide suggestions for how other communities can implement the Freedom Schools model.




We are ever grateful to and inspired by our dedicated NFFS scholars, families, staff, and research team. This work is dedicated to you.


Roehrig, A.D., Clemons, K.M. and Norris, K. (2017), "The Fierce Urgency of Now: CDF Freedom Schools and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy", Ortlieb, E. and Cheek, E.H. (Ed.) Addressing Diversity in Literacy Instruction (Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Vol. 8), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 251-269.



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