Milwaukee mayor stresses the importance of reading

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- When it comes to the country's most "literate cities," Milwaukee does not fare very well. A national survey done by Central Connecticut University puts it at 40th out of 76 cities. But there’s a program in Milwaukee that’s trying to change that statistic.

Urban Roots Freedom School is a summer program helps children with their reading skills, but also tries to get them to really enjoy the subject.

The project director says in Milwaukee, only 15 percent of kids grades 3 through 8 can read at a proficient level. This program is aimed at keeping kids from falling behind -- especially in the summer.

“It’s a great feeling to see their smiles and see them excited about doing better in their lives and not want to be out in the streets all the time,” said Antonio Thomas, Project Director of Freedom School.

On Monday, July 22nd, the kids, grades kindergarten through 12th grade, had a special guest: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He came to read them, answer questions, and stress the importance of reading.

“We know that a lot of kids fall back in their reading ability if they don’t have an opportunity to be exposed to reading during the summer and usually we see that in poor neighbors. So this is a reading program that exposes them to reading in the summer,” said Mayor Barrett.

Urban Roots Freedom School goes into August. It is part of a national movement by Children`s Defense Fund that helps children fall in love with reading, and increases their self-esteem. It is held at Church of the Epiphany on 2nd Street in Milwaukee.