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Back to School Fest in West Lawn

Chicago Public Library and Amazon celebrate learning with Teachers in the Library!

On Saturday, September 24, Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Public Library Foundation, and Amazon celebrated the start of the school year with the community at the newly renovated West Lawn branch. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., families enjoyed a fun-filled day of learning and discovery with activities ranging from live animal shows to hands-on STEM activities for children of all ages! Students can also pick up their back-to-school Grab & Go kits at the event.

The celebration also introduced families to accessible and free homework help resources available to the West Lawn community, including one of the Library’s most beloved and impactful programs, Teachers in the Library. This donor-powered program has helped bridge the academic opportunity gap for more than 30 years. Families were encouraged to explore the branch, talk to Teachers, and ask questions about the program and other free learning resources.

“The Library is deeply committed to improving learning goals for our children and teens. Not only do we believe in providing safe spaces for learning, we believe in providing learning programs designed to assist with closing the achievement gap for those who have historically faced challenges with access to academic support.”

Chicago public library commissioner chris brown

For more than two decades, Chicago Public Library has provided high-quality homework help to thousands of Chicago’s students, especially to lower-income children and children of color who continue to face the most significant obstacles to educational opportunity in Chicago. According to the Brookings Institution, students continue to experience prolonged learning disruptions from the past two years. Estimates suggest there is up to a 30% loss in reading skills and a 50% loss in math skills. More concerning is that the achievement divide between students in low-poverty and high-poverty areas grew by 20% in math and 15% in reading.

The Library’s Teacher in the Library program gives students after school access to accredited teachers that help students complete their schoolwork, prepare for tests, build strong study skills, and review concepts covered in their classes such as reading and comprehension skills, multiplication, and more. “My son started attending the Teacher in the Library program three months ago. From having math anxieties, he is now getting A’s on his math assignments, quizzes, and exams,” says a parent from the Richard M. Daley branch.

Teachers also work with parents and caregivers ─ giving them additional resources and strategies to help reinforce school lessons at home. Teachers even help prepare students to thrive outside of school by supporting them as they transition to adulthood, assisting with college applications and career road-mapping.

“I have been a Teacher in the Library for 20 years and have witnessed the impact of the program to students in the community, making accessible critical academic support that every child deserves. The Teacher in the Library has also become a welcome resource for parents and caregivers to help their children, making sure that learning continues from the school to the Library to the home.”

Teacher in the library, melody farmer

In 2020, this signature Library program pivoted to a virtual format to prevent further loss of valuable learning hours and offer the afterschool academic support many students lost access to due to COVID. To help students as they returned to the classroom, teachers returned to the branches in fall 2021, while continuing virtual sessions, providing 9,619 sessions of free one-on-one homework help across the city, in-person and online.

Amazon is the 2022 Lead Corporate Sponsor of Teacher in the Library, which is an entirely donor-funded program.

“Our partnership underscores Amazon’s commitment to inspiring students and engaging through partnerships to reduce educational barriers,” said Sarah Glavin, Head of Community Affairs at Amazon, Chicago. “It is more important than ever for students to have access to caring educators outside of school, in their neighborhoods. Teachers in the Library extends the learning day in fun and meaningful ways. Amazon is proud to help the Chicago Public Library Foundation reach more students and expand services across Chicago.”

A full list of branches with Teacher in the Library program, and virtual sessions, can be found here.