Children’s Defense Fund summer literacy program opens in Prince George’s County

Prince George’s County on Monday became home to a new summer literacy program sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, one of 131 Freedom Schools operating across the country.

About 100 students began the six-week literacy program designed to address the reading and reading comprehension problems that face middle school students.

The program is a partnership between Howard University and the county public school system and Community Builders of Maryland, a nonprofit.

“The goal of this summer literacy program is to engage students in learning and instill within them confidence and a love for reading,” said Howard University Interim President Wayne A.I. Frederick in a statement. “By doing so, we will help eliminate the cradle-to-prison pipeline and establish a cradle-to-college track.”

Howard students will serve as teachers and mentors for the at-risk and low- to moderate-income students participating in the free program.

Prince George’s County Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell has identified literacy as a key priority to turning around the school system, and said he is grateful for all the programs, including the Freedom School, that are working to bring change to the school district.

“They are great opportunities,” Maxwell said, noting Freedom School and programs offered at public libraries. He also encouraged parents to get their children to read at home. “Everybody talks about the summer loss. . . . There are a lot of different ways to approach it.”

The Children’s Defense Fund has 200 Freedom Schools in 29 states and has served more than 12,600 students since the early 1990s. There are three other Freedom Schools operating in the Washington region this year, including two in Montgomery County and two in the District.

An earlier version of this story misstated the number of Freedom Schools. It has been corrected.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.

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