Namrata took his then 3-year-old son, Aarav to the Harold Washington Branch of the Chicago Public Library to escape the gloom of winter. “You should visit during the summer. We have a Summer Learning Challenge program your son will enjoy,” a librarian invited. And so they did. This mother and son duo have been active in the program ever since.
A Summer Learning Adventure
Aarav is now 10 – tall, articulate, and very much in love with reading. “I can’t wait to be a summer explorer again this year!”, he declares with an enthusiasm that (I’ve been told) rivals that of cheering for his favorite soccer team. Even after more than eight years of attending the Summer Learning Challenge, Aarav is as excited as ever.
“At first, I was afraid that he’d lose interest as he grows older. But the opposite actually happened,” Namrata narrates. She credits this to the dynamism of the summer learning program. “Every year, they have a new topic to explore, a new selection of books to read, and different activities that children could look forward to,” Namrata continues. This year’s theme? Explorers at Play. Summer Learning Challenge participants will create, explore, discover, read, and play their way through learning.
“What do you enjoy the most about the Summer Learning Challenge?”, I ask Aarav. “I like all of them – of course the reading, then there are cool experiments, field trip adventures in parks and museums, and creative summaries!”, he answers without skipping a beat. “Creative summaries?”, I repeat. “It’s when you read a book and then explain what you learned and discovered from it after. You can write or draw and be all kinds of creative.” Aarav explains patiently like a true Summer Learning veteran.
Liz McChesney, CPL’s Director of the Children & Family Engagement, later shares that activating children’s creativity strengthens their comprehension. “Creativity is a great connector between what children read and understand,” she explains.
Learning is better with Friends
“Aarav has made lots of friends in the Summer Learning Challenge throughout the years. This is especially healthy for him being an only child,” Namrata explains. Aarav wholeheartedly agrees. “I have close friends that I’ve met from the program too. We read together, play together and completed our projects together. We also help each other in some of our challenges. It’s so much fun to learn with friends!”
It’s Cool to be Smart
At such a young age, Aarav talks about books with intense passion. Summer or not, he regularly visits the library to read and check-out books. “I’m currently reading the Big Nate series,” he states proudly. But this was not always the case. “Aarav wasn’t a fan of reading in school early on. Picking up a book felt a lot like a chore,” Namrata recalls.
His relationship with reading dramatically improved once he participated in the summer program. “Summer Learning Challenge motivates me to read for fun. Because I’m not preparing for tests or hurrying to finish a chapter, I enjoy reading so much more!”, Aarav explains. He had such a great time that he read more than 3,300 minutes last year. All of that reading earned him entries into daily drawings for prizes. He won an iPad and a free museum trip at the Museum of Science and Industry for his entire class! “The prizes give me additional inspiration too,” he smiles sheepishly.
What happens in Summer does not stay in Summer
Aarav’s summer learning experience prepares him to return to school in the fall ready to learn. “Last summer, we read a lot about the human body. When I started 4th grade, I already knew most of our science lessons because I learned them during the Summer Learning Challenge,” he tells me. “Aarav has improved so much in his reading. From B’s, he now receives consistent A’s in reading. More importantly, reading has become a habit he truly loves. I believe this positive approach towards books and learning that is a part of library programs made all the difference,” Namrata shares.
What is Aarav’s secret to reading well? “Read with focus. Don’t read too fast and don’t read too slow. Read at your own pace to understand every word. Read them again if you have to. And remember, have fun!” Spoken with a wisdom of a true Summer Learner! See you this summer, Aarav!
The Summer Learning Challenge starts on June 24. Sign up at your local branch!
In 2018, 110,000 children read 105 million minutes during the Summer Learning Challenge. More importantly, they achieved 15% gains in reading and 20% gains in math compared to their peers who did not participate. Summer Learning engagement works!
The Summer Learning Challenge is made possible thanks to Wintrust, Helen M. Harrison Foundation, Peoples Gas, PNC, Macy’s Gives, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Boeing, Walter E. Heller Foundation, The James & Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation, Northern Trust, Dr. Scholl Foundation, Cubs Care, A McCormick Foundation Fund, Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation, Westinghouse Electric Company, and individual donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.
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