It’s back-to-school season – time to dust off the backpacks, set the alarm, and prepare for new academic adventures.
August is a mixed bag. The heat of summer gives way to the more refreshing breeze of Fall. Days start to feel shorter. Kids and families say goodbye to vacation and get ready for the new school year ahead.
The back-to-school transition is thrilling and nerve-racking for children and parents alike. But don’t worry; Chicago Public Library has got you covered, making the adjustment as easy and fun as possible.
Picking up where you left off
Aarav started his fourth grade in stride. “I already knew most of our science lessons because I learned them during the Summer Learning Challenge!”, he exclaimed proudly. Aside from ten weeks of creating, discovering, exploring, reading, and playing their way to learning, the Library’s summer program ensures that children return to school ready for the next grade.
Students can lose up to two months of reading and math skills during school break, and it takes 5-6 weeks to reteach them. The Library is changing that, one summer at a time by providing high-quality summer activities in all 77 neighborhoods – for free.
“The Summer Learning Challenge reinforces Carson’s lessons at school in fun and exciting ways. He understands and appreciates concepts better because he gets to apply them through fun activities. Not only is he confident for the third grade; he’s also extremely excited!” – Irene, Woodson branch
This year’s Summer Learning Challenge just wrapped up on August 17th. More than 110,000 summer explorers participated in field trips, performances, STEAM experiments, and workshops across 81 branches. You can watch summer learning in action here.
Get homework help from a Teacher in the Library
With the new school year comes new homework. Whether students need a safe space to work on their assignments or access resources, Chicago Public Library’s doors are always open.
“Bilal heads straight to the Library after school. Aside from the calm environment that allows him to focus, he gets academic support from the library’s resident teacher, Ms. Selena. Ever since he started attending, Bilal’s grades have improved steadily from B’s to A’s.” Sophia, Bilal’s mother, shares with gratitude and pride.
Most branches are within walking distance from schools. “The Library is a natural stop-over for students for homework help. We have free books, computers, and study areas available for children and teens. With a Teacher in the Library, we’re expanding our academic support to more holistic and proactive levels,” explains Liz McChesney, Director of Children and Family Services.
More than assisting students in completing their homework, Teachers in the Library reinforce school lessons through one-on-one tutoring, fun activities, and peer learning.
“It’s important that children know that the library is not an extension of their school. Yes, we review things they learn in the classroom, but we do so in a more relaxed and informal manner. They can ask questions. They can play educational games. They can help each other out. We want them to enjoy learning at the Library,” says Ms. Mickey, a Teacher at the North Austin branch.
It is this commitment to the success of Chicago’s youth that the Teacher in the Library program is the largest and most comprehensive in the nation. And it continues to grow with the online homework help resource, Brainfuse−reaching more students than ever before. Grade school and high school students can log-in from 2 pm to 11 pm, 7 days a week with questions, test preparation, writing assistance, assignment review and more.
“We want to ensure that we are here for students whether they’re at the branches or at home,” adds Liz.
Teacher in the Library sessions resume September 9th. Check your local branch for Teacher in the Library hours.
YOUmedia becomes Chicago teens’ hang-out spot after school
Whether you’re an incoming freshman or starting your senior year, high school is exciting as it is daunting. Easing the transition is knowing that you are not alone.
“A friend invited me to YOUmedia in my freshman year. I remember being so amazed that there’s this huge space at the library just for teens. I felt at home right away. YOUmedia has been my go-to place after school. I come here to practice drums, do my homework, or just talk,” shares Daniel, a senior at Muchin College Prep.
Opened in 2009, YOUmedia was designed as a safe space for teens. In more ways than one, it has become a default sanctuary for high school students across zip codes. “I found my tribe at YOUmedia,” D’eandre says. “It’s refreshing to meet friends who share the same interests. My friends and I have even started a podcast about game design, and we’re recording our episodes here,” he adds.
What draws teens to YOUmedia?
“I love how you can come in, pick up a skill that you’re interested in and grow. I didn’t even know how to mix sounds before. One day, Marcus asked me if I wanted to learn. Now, I help out with sound engineering at the studio,” Daniel beams. He’s currently looking at music as his major for college.
Activities at YOUmedia range from music, film, visual arts, to website design. “Learning takes place in innovative ways all the time. We give teens the freedom to explore an interest or learn something new. We help broaden their horizon and teach them crucial 21st century skills that will hopefully open opportunities for college and beyond. We nudge them in the right direction, but the choice is theirs,” shares Jeremy Dunn, Director of Teen Services.
For many teens, YOUmedia is a source of support as they navigate high school. “School is stressful enough with academic, emotional, and social pressures. I find a sense of security in having a space where I can express myself and talk to people my age who experience the same things I’m going through,” Aisha reveals. The seventeen-year-old particularly likes the group forums where they get to dissect issues relevant to teens−from college applications to LGBTQ issues. “We discuss freely, without fear of being judged. That’s really important,” she adds.
Going back to school is portrayed as a heart-racing, stomach-churning, palm-sweating event for children and parents. This doesn’t have to be the case. Chicago Public Library is flipping the script by replacing dread with excitement.
“We try our best to help students enjoy learning. That’s why we offer creative and out-of-the-box programs to ensure that kids and teens look forward to learning, not just during the first day of classes but all year-long,” Liz declares with conviction.