Annual summer learning challenge launches at public libraries

Staff Writer

The annual Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge has returned and will take place citywide in all 80-library locations throughout the summer months.

Rahm’s Readers was created to prevent the “summer slide” in which children can lose “months of math and science learning during summer months if they do not remain engaged in learning,” said the city in a written statement.

This year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling upon children to stop the evil Dr. Brain Drain. Children in the program will join the Super Explorers and create a superhero persona to explore the science and art behind their “super powers.”

The program is made possible by donations to the Chicago Public Library Foundation and is open to children 13 and under. Participants will be challenged to read for 20 minutes a day and participate in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities.

Through the partnership forged with the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) and Chicago Public Library (CPL), the Summer Learning Challenge incorporates STEAM programming as an opportunity for learning in the summer months.

Youth who participate in this summer’s superhero themed challenges will engage in critical thinking, creation and design activities to encourage creativity and problem solving said the city in a written release.

“This summer, Rahm’s Readers will encourage students to become their own superheroes through continued reading and learning in the summer months,” said Emanuel in a written statement. “Students across Chicago will engage in various types of educational development, from critical thinking and creative activities to reading, keeping them prepared for success when school resumes in the fall.”

The Summer Learning Challenge offers a number of interactive events led by partner organizations and librarians such as science experiments, comic workshops, ballet and puppet shows, in-branch animal visits, concerts, story times and art projects.

“We are also focusing on encouraging parents to do the challenge with their children, said Tina L. Carter, children’s librarian at Blackstone Branch Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. “One of the things that we have is a parent caregiver family-learning log. It’s a way they [caregivers] can help their child learn and have fun this summer.”

Carter said if families complete the logs together then the Blackstone Library will offer a prize for caregivers as a way to say thank you.

Last year the Blackstone Library Branch had 1,300 participants in the program.

The city as a whole had 100,000 participants.

School is officially out for summer. Carter said she expects more activity at the Blackstone Library this week.

“This is the first week of the program,” Carter said. “Things usually pick up by week two, and in addition to the family drop-in programs, we also collaborate with the daycares and day camps in the area. Next week we are going to be seeing a lot of day camps coming through to participate in the program. We encourage everyone to come on out.”

Children who are registered for the Summer Learning Challenge between the ages 0-5 will be able to select one book, and kids ages 6-13 will be able to choose 12 free books, on community days at 19 CPL branches across the city.

The Summer Learning Challenge is a part of the Chicago Summer of Learning. The initiative aims to keep students safe and engaged while school is out.

Partner organizations are MSI, City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, and Art Institute of Chicago. Bernie’s Book Bank is the book distribution partner.

Rahm’s Readers began in 2013. The program was reimagined for CPL and since then the program has received national recognition.

In 2015, the CPL was the first-ever winner of the National Summer Learning Associations Founder’s Award (NSLA) for Excellence, which recognizes the revamped program. CPL is the only public library to win an award from the organization.

Additionally, Elizabeth McChesney director of System Wide Children’s Services at CPL co-authored “Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count” (ALA Publications, June 2017).

The book is a guide based on the CPL’s approach to summer learning with its partner institution MSI and it is used nationally as model for summer reading programs.

The program began last week and will run until Sept. 1.

The Blackstone Library will also host special events related to the Summer Learning Challenge and more for children this summer.

To find our more information about programming and events at Blackstone Library visit

To find out more information about Rahm’s Readers visit the CPL’s website at