WATERLOO – Three days a week, at the end of classes at Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, fourth grader De’Von Jordan spends two extra hours at the school.
He and 14 other fourth and fifth graders attend Sheritta Stokes’ class, where they develop their reading skills and learn about historical black figures.
“I come for the books,” Jordan said. He particularly enjoys reading about sports, history and civil rights. On Tuesday, he picked out a book on Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Over the past two months, Jordan believes his reading skills have improved.
“I learned to read even more, even faster,” he said. Jordan and the other students are enrolled in 1619 Freedom School’s “fluency training camp”.
The after-school program began in Cunningham in October after Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones announced plans earlier this fall to launch the free service in her hometown. In January, the full program will begin at its permanent site in the Masonic Temple in the historic city center.
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At that point, the number of students it serves will double to approximately 30. All low-income Waterloo community schools four and five students with low reading scores are eligible to enroll in the program, which is underway. will run five days a week after school. .
On Sunday, 1619 Freedom School will host an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. that will include food, drink and music. It is located at 325 E. Park Ave., Suite 203.
Participants can tour the facility and meet the teachers who will run the program, including Stokes. She said student instructors would include current and retired Waterloo school teachers – including a Gold Star teacher and a few Title I teachers – and district staff who are currently on the Teach Waterloo educator training program.
“Our goal is to provide the students with the experts,” Stokes said, during training camp and when the full program begins. She hopes the students “learn a love of reading and also learn a bit of pride and missing history.” … Once they regain their self-confidence, their reading scores will skyrocket ”.
Hannah-Jones will also be present for the event. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times Magazine essay “1619 Project”, which aimed to reframe U.S. history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the national narrative. . It was in 1619 that the first ship carrying African slaves arrived in North America.
An extended version of the magazine’s issue was recently published in book form, “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story”. Participants can enter a raffle during the open house to win a copy of the signed book by Hannah-Jones. Organizers are asking people not to bring books on Sunday for her to sign.
Capacity in the program space will be limited at all times, so those planning to attend should confirm their attendance online for the event. A link to this can be found at 1619freedomschool.org/openhouse. It can also be found by going to eventbrite.com and searching for the open house.
Stokes said organizers launched the training camp to “get the kids interested and give them a good start” in the program.
“I have to congratulate the students because they stay after school. They are excited, they are engaged,” she said.
About four other adults were in Cunningham’s class working with the students on Tuesday. Until recently, students in the education program at Hawkeye Community College also volunteered with the program. There were five students at HCC who worked closely with the children in the class each day, creating a student ratio of 1 to 3.
The program uses a curriculum developed for him by two professors, Sabrina Wesley-Nero of Georgetown University and LaGarrett King of the University of Missouri. Stokes said it has several sections: Hopes and Dreams, Children in History and Local History.
On Tuesday, groups of students lined up with books to read parts of two fables “The Lion and the Rabbit” and “Let the Sleeping Dogs Lie”. Readers’ theater is part of the program one day a week, Stokes said, “and they love to do that.”
Among his other pieces, students studied grade-level word lists, which they were tested on every week. In addition, they fluently read passages about African American historical figures, working on comprehension skills through a brief discussion of the writings.
“It just highlights different familiar people throughout the story,” Stokes said of the fluency passages.
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