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Teacher in the Library: Making a Difference one Student at a Time

Bilal, 14, is a freshman at the Chicago Math and Science Academy, where he is a consistent A student. He thanks the Teacher in the Library Program for his success in school. 

Teacher in the Library

Developing the Study Habit 

Bilal’s story began when he was seven years old. “Bilal is a hardworking student. But he would have difficulty with some homework questions and would ask his dad or me to help him,” Sophia,  Bilal’s mother explained. “We did not know how to guide him properly, so we went to our local library here in Rogers Park. Initially, we were hoping to find resources for reference, but we were astonished to learn about the Teacher in the Library program. Bilal has been attending everyday since.”
In the beginning, Sophia would accompany young Bilal to the library, would patiently wait for him, and then bring him home. Now, she drops Bilal off and picks him up after work. “I am confident leaving Bilal at the library. I saw how the teacher in the library, Ms. Selena, cares for him and other students. I also see that he’s happy there – with the teacher and with his classmates. The calm and quiet environment allows him to concentrate on his assignments.”
Throughout his daily library visits, Bilal developed a routine. He would enter the classroom, say hello to other students, and would sit close to Ms. Selena. When he was in middle school, he would frequently ask Ms. Selena to help him with vocabulary and with his essays. Then, Ms. Selena and Bilal would do a couple of exercises together as practice. Finally, he would do the rest of the homework on his own and would have Ms. Selena check the answers. “One of the most important lessons I teach my students is developing a study habit, one they could practice beyond our classes in the library,” Ms. Selena explained. Soon, C’s and B’s turned into A’s. “Seeing his grades improve consistently over the past years have been so fulfilling,” Ms. Selena shared.
Nowadays, Bilal not only completes his homework independently; he’s also helping younger students understand their assignment. In addition to one-on-one sessions, an added benefit of the Teacher in the Library is peer leaning. Students learn with and from one another.

When the Teacher in the Library becomes Part of the Family  


The Teacher in the Library program is very much a part of Bilal’s young life. The library is not just his second school; it has become his second home. “Ms. Selena is very patient with her students. She understands their needs and tries to explain difficult lessons in a language that children can understand. She connects with them so that learning is more relaxed and fun. As a parent, it makes me happy to see that a teacher is genuinely concerned for my son’s academic and personal well-being,” Sophia shared. She also added that Ms. Selena collaborates with parents. She takes the time to speak with them when they’re picking up their children, sharing tips on how to help students at home.
Bilal’s family were so grateful to Ms. Selena for helping their son along the way for many years that they invited her to his middle school graduation. Ms. Selena stood with the whole family, clapping as Bilal took the stage to receive his diploma. After the ceremony, there was a group photo – Bilal, his parents, his brother, Ms. Selena, his school principal, and math teacher – the quintessential picture of the village that raised the child.
From a shy kid, insecure of his abilities, Bilal is growing up to be a smart, young man, brimming with confidence and potential. His parents couldn’t be prouder. “We are thankful for the Teacher in the Library. A caring mentor like, Ms. Selena, makes a difference in students’ lives and school performance. They help students get the homework help they need and the attention they deserve. And it’s free for everyone!” Sophia concluded. She is so pleased about how the program has positively impacted Bilal that Salim,  Bilal’s ten year-old brother, has also been attending the library to receive help from Ms. Selena.
Bilal is only one of the thousands of students who receive much-needed support from a Teacher in the Library in library branches across the city. During the 2017-2018 school year alone, there were more than 100,000 homework sessions provided to students all around Chicago. You, too, can shape a better future for Chicago children. 

Chicago Public Library Foundation would like to thank Gould Trust, BMO Harris Bank, Sue & Thomas F. Pick, Bears Care, The Crown Family Philanthropies, Paul Angell Family Foundation, Donnelley Family Fund. Kemper Educational & Charitable Fund, The Barker Welfare Foundation, A Montgomery Ward Foundation, Spark Cremin & Paul Dykstra, Jamee & Marshall Field, Northern Trust, Sulzer Family Foundation, Dia S. & Edward S. Weil Jr., Leslie S. Hindman Auctioneers, The Jamie & Madeleine McMullan Fund, and other generous corporate, foundation, and other individual donors for their dedication and support that ensures Chicago’s children have free access to a Teacher in the Library