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CPL’S Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge

For decades Chicago Public Library has challenged Chicago children to read during the summer. In 2013, with support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPL redesigned its summer program to more intentionally support 21st-century learning.


CPL’s ten-week STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Math) summer program for children and families is designed and delivered in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) and supported by the Chicago Public Library Foundation. The program helps families combat the summer slide –a phenomenon that describes children’s loss of up to three months of the previous year’s academic gains if they are not engaged in reading and other learning activities during the summer. In just two years, the program captured national attention, and in 2015, CPL was the first library ever to win an excellence award
from the National Summer Learning Association.
The 2015 space travel-themed program included hands-on activities meant to encourage children all over Chicago to think like space engineers, by engaging in design challenges, and by deepening their understanding of the solar system and space travel. Children participated in library-based programs and field trips to MSI and Adler Planetarium.
The Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge includes an early literacy component with programming for “Rahm’s Little Readers,” ages 0-5. This component helps parents and caregivers incorporate the five key areas of early learning into their child care routines: Talk, Sing, Read, Write and Play. In 2015, every participant in Rahm’s Little Readers received a free book, courtesy of KPMG.
By combining STEAM activities with reading, students of all ages are engaged in a comprehensive summer-long program that ignites their curiosity and keeps their brains active. And we mean active.
Meet Avery McDowell, a dynamic 8-year-old who was a standout from the 2015 Summer Learning Challenge. A patron of the Greater Grand Crossing Branch, Avery was captivated by the space exploration theme. After watching a documentary on Apollo 13, he created his own science talk videos, each one focused on a specific topic.
“One was on circuits. One was on animals. One was on craters,” recounts Avery. The videos led to a meeting between Avery and Captain Jim Lovell, the hero of Apollo 13, and the Foundation’s spokesperson for the 2015 Summer Learning Challenge. Yes, Avery wants to be an astronaut. Making a science video series would have been more than enough for most kids during the summer. But not Avery. He also read 200 books – 3,000 minutes of reading — as part of Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge. His love of reading and learning caught the attention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel who invited Avery to attend a press conference with him. ”He hugged me twice!” says Avery.
“At Chicago Public Library, we are committed to inspiring continuous learning, exploration and growth,” says CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon. “Rahm’s Readers provides children and families with activities aimed at nurturing learning and building 21st-century skills.”
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Public Library and Chicago Public Library Foundation’s joint Annual Report. Thank you to our good donors who make these successes possible at Chicago Public Library. Please consider contributing a donation of your own here.