Breaking Barriers to Access: WITS Partners with Chicago Public Library to Empower Early Readers at Home

Rica BousoOutcomes, Partnerships, Programs

Why Summer Learning Matters

Summer learning is a critical tool in helping students prepare for a new school year. According to the National Summer Learning Association, students can lose up to two months’ worth of reading skills during school vacations. COVID-19 has made this learning gap wider. Due to school closures and transition to the virtual classroom, research predicts that students can lose up to 30% of reading skills when they return in the fall, affecting children from communities in need disproportionately.

Access to free, high-quality summer learning programs is more critical today than ever before. That is why Chicago Public Library, Chicago Public Library Foundation, and WITS are working together to provide learning resources to children and families across the city.

“Rooted in 77 neighborhoods, Chicago Public Library has always been a hub of learning. As COVID-19 exacerbates the educational challenges facing families all over Chicago, the Library and the Library Foundation are finding innovative ways and forging partnerships with organizations to empower our patrons wherever they may be. We are so proud to be doing this work with WITS. Together, we can broaden the reach and deepen the impact of summer learning in communities,” said Brenda Langstraat, Chicago Public Library Foundation President.

Reimagining Summer Learning

Since 2012, WITS Early Childhood Summer Program (ECSP) has prepared over 500 young students with foundational reading skills through a holistic program that is both educational and fun.

“As we navigate the challenges of learning in the virtual space, WITS has adapted our classroom program into an accessible digital program to ensure that we can engage children and families. Collaborating with the Library ensures that ECSP is reaching as families as possible,” said Tena Latona Kunik, CEO of WITS.

This August, WITS ECSP activity books will be available for families to take home in all 81 library branches. The activity book complements WITS weekly online materials or can be used as a stand-alone activity. To bridge access divide and ensure the widest possible reach, these activity books will also be part of the Library’s mobile van delivery to different neighborhoods – bundled with free books, play kits, and other learning materials. In this way, we can meet families where they are with resources they need for a fun summer of learning.

Broadening Our Reach Together

The combined expertise and commitment of the Library and WITS will provide Chicago families with hands-on learning resources that support play, reading, and discovery─both during this challenging time, and far beyond. Together, we will empower thousands of Chicago families to fight the COVID learning slide by connecting them to an unparalleled network of educational services and supports.

WITS provides literacy programming at no cost to over 90 Chicago neighborhood elementary schools.

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