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Why We Love the Summer Learning Challenge: The Gardner Family!

With CPS back in session and Teachers In the Library back in the stacks – we had the chance to connect with a Summer Learning Challenge family that beautifully summarized the program’s impact.

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 the last of our 3-part series interviewing parents and their children who have participated in our award-winning, summer-long, citywide program. They have great insights to share with you for next year’s calendar.

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) focused 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 the Gardners
Rich and Shea are active parents to 4 year-old Leo and 2.5 year-old Wren.  When asked how they first learned of the Summer Learning Challenge, they explained, “We’re always looking for programs to get our kids involved in and we frequent the Library. So we found out about the Summer Learning Challenge there.”
The Woodson branch in Washington Heights is their local library, which checks the box for them in two important capacities. “It’s nice when your local branch is also your favorite branch,” they laughed. “Because then they’re both walking distance.”

The Gardners on This Year’s Outdoor Theme

As an active family and the founders of Maroon Village – a non-profit that cultivates healthy environments to promote resiliency among student athletes through performance training and yoga – this year’s Summer Learning Challenge theme of ‘Earth Explorers’, fit right into the family dynamic.  “One of Leo and Wren’s favorite books from the programs was Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” Shea explained. “Now they can’t stop talking about ‘the bear climbing the tree!’” she laughed. “Since then all they want to do is go outside and climb trees.” This combination of reading, application and play is something we can get behind.
When it came to the multiple different Earth Explorer activities and outings, both parents gushed. “The Library really helped us navigate our exploration of the city. They gave us a list of certain museums with days and times that are free” –   a great resource for any young family to have.

The Family Connection

While it’s evident the Summer Learning Challenge had a positive impact on the Gardner kiddos, Rich and Shea would attest that the program is really fun for the whole family. “I don’t know about the kids,” Rich laughed, “but I really liked the paper airplane activity. We do that at home now.”  Shea added: “If you have your kids at home, it’s a great way to get them out and interact with other kids their age. It’s a great place for parents to meet other parents with similar interests – and you’re doing it with people in your neighborhood!”
In closing, when it comes to the Library, the thoughts the Gardners have on our 80+ branch library system is everything you’d hope to hear of a public institution. “I think the city really got it right,” Rich shared. “The focus should be kids. In today’s political climate, today’s focus on safe and healthy kids is important so they can grow up to be the adults we wish them to be: the leaders.”
To learn more about Summer Learning Challenge, click here.  The program will be back next summer with a whole new theme and roster of STEAM activities for the whole family.
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 Walter E. Heller Foundation, Macy’s, PNC Bank, The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation, Westinghouse and individual donors who generously fund the Summer Learning Challenge through the Chicago Public Library Foundation.