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

It’s fun for the whole family with Chicago Public Library’s Summer Learning Challenge!

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) has 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 Alicia Huntsinger

Running a full-house, Alicia is mom to 4 year-old Sylvan, 6 year-old Frances and 8 year-old twins Ross and Marin. The Huntsingers frequent the Logan Square Library and (we’re pleased to report) have participated in the Summer Learning Challenge for the past 5 years.

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

“I couldn’t imagine buying all the books my kids wanted to read!” Alicia laughed. Quickly explaining, that it was the positive impact of their local librarians. “They just made the program so accessible,” she gushed. “We started going to story time when the twins were 2 or 3.”

A Family Affair

As a mom of 4, it could be challenging to find activities for the whole family – but not true of the Summer Learning Challenge. With kids 8, 6 and 4, Alicia attests, there truly is something for everyone from Explorer Guides tailored by age group, to workshops and performances for the whole family. “It’s great!” she shared. “Each of my kids can participate at their own level.  They read chapter books, simple books – even my youngest is starting to pick books up on their own.”

Positive Feedback 

When thinking of the greatest value adds for moms and dads in the program, Alicia didn’t skip a beat.  “Summer gets busy,” she said. “But the best thing about the Summer Learning Challenge is that it keeps my kids driving towards reading. I get to read with them, and they’ll tell me about what they’re reading when I get home.” And with this year’s Earth Explorers theme, there was an extra fun, outdoor application. “After reading about different animals, we took a trip up to grandma and grandpa’s house,” Huntsinger shared. “So this year we were able to do a lot with wildlife. We were able to see lot of birds, squirrels, and a fox! It’s just so different when you can see these things in nature.”
This is a sentiment we wholeheartedly agree with, which is why the Summer Learning Challenge includes field trips to Chicago’s great cultural institutions that are related to the year’s theme. Earth Explorers took participants to the Shedd Aquarium and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Before closing the interview, we asked Alicia if she had any words of wisdom for parents. Very smartly she replied, “If you haven’t gotten to know your local library – you really should. It’s full of great resources.”
To learn more about the 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 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.