Meet our 2024 Library Foundation Award honorees.

Why We Love the Summer Learning Challenge: The Parchment Family

It’s a hot, hot July and Chicago Public Library’s Summer Learning Challenge is warming up!

If you’re veteran parents, new comers to the program, or parents who have never heard of the Summer Learning Challenge – this one’s for you! Follow along on our 3-part series interviewing parents and their children who have taken part in this award-winning, summer-long, citywide program and have great insights to share with you.

About the Summer Learning Challenge 

Each year, the Summer Learning Challenge engages 100,000+ Chicago kids, from infancy to 13, as well as their families and caretakers in a full summer of activities that center around a theme. This year, the dynamic, STEAM-based program (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) is focusing on issues relating to the environment, sustainability, and global citizenship, all while fighting “summer slide”- the loss of reading and math skills that occurs when children are not taking part in learning opportunities over the summer months.

Meet Jenna Parchment

Jenna Parchment is mom to 2 year-old Zoe and new little sister, Rhema. The Parchments frequent the Wrightwood-Ashburn Library in Chicago’s southwest side and are returning for their second year in the Summer Learning Challenge.

How did you first get involved with the Summer Learning Challenge?

“Well, it got really expensive buying books!” she laughed. “Zoe is into Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Night, Night Chicago and when I first borrowed them, I had to keep renewing them.” After getting to know their local librarians and soliciting more early education advice, Jenna learned about the Summer Learning Challenge and decided to give the program a try. After all the Summer Learning Challenge isn’t just for school-aged children, there’s activities for the youngest learners (birth to 5 years) as well! And what a great decision it was.  In her own words, Jenna attests “If you really want to help your child become a good reader, you have to be consistent.  I was already reading to Zoe when we started, but not consistently. The Summer Learning Challenge helped build that.”
In addition to attending Story Time programs at their branch, the Parchment family also participated in Summer Learning Challenge events. “Last year we went to the Museums of Science and Industry and the Children’s Museum,” Jenna explained. “For us, those events were great because Zoe had already read about them in Night, Night Chicago.”  Moreover, “they’re fun! You get to explore the city with so many other parents and kids.”

The Personal Impact

“Zoe is very curious,” Parchment beamed. “When she was 1 year old, she already knew her letters, numbers, shapes and colors. She was also reading from memory! Now at 2 years old she reads her library books to baby to Rhema.”
And as bibliophile in the making, it should be no surprise that Zoe already has her very own library card. Go Zoe!

The Family Connection

It’s evident, the Summer Learning Challenge had a positive impact on the Parchment family, and to clarify the misconception, “is the Summer Learning Challenge just for kids?” Jenna can attest that it benefits the whole family — from an educational and social perspectives.  “I met so many different parents through the program, and some of our kids still play together outside of Library activities,” she said. “Its also a great resource for new moms that need additional support.”
Before closing the interview, Jenna made a welcomed request and one (we feel) sums up the spirit of this free, citywide program – and the incredible people that make it a reality. “Can you please give a shout-out to the librarians at the Wrightwood-Ashburn Library?” she asked. “Without them I wouldn’t have been exposed to so many incredible, different resources.”
To learn more about Summer Learning Challenge, click here.  You can sign up to participate at your local branch library.
To make a gift that supports children and families who benefit from the Summer Learning Challenge and other Library services, you can do so here.
We thank Wintrust, The Boeing Company, Cubs Care (a McCormick Foundation Fund), The Helen M. Harrison Foundation, The Heller Foundation, Macy’s, PNC Bank, The Rice Foundation, Westinghouse and individual donors who generously fund the Summer Learning Challenge through the Chicago Public Library Foundation.