WACO, Texas (KWTX) About 170 students are spending the first part of their summer vacation at a local Freedom School.
Freedom schools were born out of the civil rights movement as a temporary free school for African Americans to help them achieve political, social, and economic equality.
As it was years ago, reading is a vital part of meeting that goal.
Students at J.H. Hines Elementary read aloud the names Natambu, Babatu, Mombera.
They were names from Ashley Bryan's Puppets book.
Jada Walker, 9, was captivated by the book.
"The meaning of them and how they look, what are they made of. When he was a kid he walked down the streets and found things that were on the ground and he used them to make puppets," she said.
The Freedom School is a six-week literacy program that aims to help students develop a love for literature.
"Through reading you have the power to do anything. You have access to everything. Because you know how to read, you're not intimidated by reading and thus that leads to you having freedom to not be bound by just the word of someone else because you've educated yourself,” Alexis Hooker, Site Coordinator for Waco's Freedom Schools, said.
Students spend hours reading throughout the day and engaged in hands-on activities in the afternoons.
One class was studying the Native American culture.
Their hands on project was making dream-catchers.
"At our program, we have strong emphasis on cultural competency and by learning about this they get to experience a glimpse of a culture that they may not be familiar with," said Yasmin Laird, project director for Waco Freedom Schools.
They also got to meet with the local public safety departments and see how leaders operate.
Two engines from the Waco Fire Department were parked in the parking lot of Indian Spring Middle School, so students at that campus to learn how fighting fires is only part of their job.
By learning about different cultures and communities, through reading, organizers said these children are gaining the perspective one could need to be an informed leader.