The Chicago Public Library’s summer reader program used to be amazing but has lost its luster under the leadership under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
First of all, his name was added to the program last year which was a turn off to me because, in my opinion, the summer reading program was about the kids. So, when Rahm’s name was added, that kinda took the attention away from whom the program was really about.
And I have to give it to King Daley. During his 20+ years of rule, he kept the focus of the program about the youngsters.
Secondly, what should be a fun reading program has turned into a “learning challenge” that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). Uh, where’s the reading? Clearly, if children cannot read, which includes comprehension, do you honestly think they will fully connect the dots with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math? Sounds like a program set up for failure to me.
Speaking of failing, allow me to share my 5 reasons why the 2013 Rahm Summer Challenge will fail on the South Side.
With the focus on STEAM, we are putting the cart before the horse because we should be highlighting the three Rs – Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. The closing of nearly 50 alleged “under-utilized” or “underperforming” schools, most of which are located on the South Side, is a clear indication that foundational skills, and especially in reading, are needed. Can changing the focus from reading to STEAM really help these alleged “underperforming” students?
It’s a “Challenge”
Calling the program a challenge makes it sound like work. While I’m not opposed to work, students without strong parental support may not do well with the requirements of this program. Besides, the summer reading program was fun.
Considering the fact that very few students actually have books in their homes (I don’t know the percentage, but I learned the statistics at Open Books), the summer reading program helped these youngsters on so many levels.
BRING BACK THE FUN!
Really Rahm?? The t-shirts have been a major part of the program for years. And I smiled every time I saw child walking through the community sporting their summer reading program shirt. I was also proud that they were letting people know that they were actually reading! Can you say, “FREE PUBLICITY”?
If you scraped up a mere $5 million to give to Vienna Beef to move to the South Side this month, I’m sure you can dip into petty cash and get $10,000 to buy shirts for ALL of the participants, volunteers, librarians and community members who support the program.
“Children who read for 300 minutes…” This is a colossal fail for several reasons.
First, who’s going to keep track of the amount it takes to read a book, especially for early learners ages 0-5? How much time does it take to flip through picture books and learn words?
Second, children read at different levels and at different speeds. Thus, two 5th graders can have the same book and one will finish in 60 minutes while the other will finish in 600 minutes. Picture this:
Kid #1 has read 5 books and completed his activity to receive his customized prize.
Kid #2 has read 1 book and completed his activity to receive his customized prize.
What is the point of the 300 minutes vs. the number book reads? Enlighten me please!
Third, many children go to the library alone and work with the librarian. Surely, clocking reading time is not their job. So, again, I ask, who’s going to keep track of the amount of time children are reading?
I’m about to jump on my soapbox for a minute. This is why the school system is failing our students. The powers-that-be are more interested in increasing test scores which are based on numbers instead of imparting knowledge which is based on expanding common sense and reasoning. I am certain that if they focused on the latter, the former would not be an issue.
Ok, I’m off my soapbox with the recommendation to bring back the old standard of rewarding children based on the number of books they read instead of the amount of time they read. You will get better results with the former.
In an ideal world, all parents would be involved in all aspects of their children’s lives. On the South Side, this is not so.
First, the census records show that many south Side households are headed by single women, many of whom are working during program hours.
Second, there are trifling parents who will not support their children in any of their endeavors.
Third, a lot of grandparents, many of whom are well beyond 60 years of age, are raising grandchildren. They are tired but are doing what they have to do to keep their families together.
Fourth, there are households where parents cannot read, therefore, it is highly unlikely that they will be reading anything. But we can hope that they send their children to participate in the program.
I will give Rahm’s team credit for trying to make the program a family affair. But this one will not work so well in certain communities on my side of town.
Those are the five reasons why I think 2013 Rahm’s Summer Learning Challenge will fail on the South Side. All of them are legit and valid, including the t-shirts.
Why do I care so much?
Because I love the library, I love education and I enjoy watching young people learn. Most importantly, I think education should be fun and not a “challenge”.