Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Library Launch “Make Summer Yours” Programming, Focus On Combating Learning Loss After Challenging School Year

Free citywide programming is an investment in youth and the people of Chicago, celebrating artistic expression and community activism through reading and art-making

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Chicago Public Library (CPL) launched “Make Summer Yours,” an all-ages and citywide approach to summer programming across all 81 Library locations. From June 28 through August 22, “Make Summer Yours” offers a mix of online and in-person events and resources focused on education, engagement, and safety. This year’s theme explores public art, creative expression, and community activism. For summer registration for kids and teens, mainstage virtual events, and more information, visit

"Art has the ability to help us heal, learn more about the world around us and engage in thoughtful discussions with others," said Mayor Lightfoot. "By encouraging our young people to engage in activism and social justice through art, we will be able to support their wellbeing as they continue to recover from this difficult year and give them creative outlets to express themselves and their opinions. I commend CPL for investing in our young people's healing, artistic and educational journeys during what will undoubtedly be a pivotal summer for their development."

CPL’s research-based and award-winning Summer Learning Challenge for children and teens is designed to develop literacy skills and provide opportunities for cultural enrichment and civic engagement outside of the structured classroom setting. According to research from the Brookings Institute, children who are not engaged in learning over the summer lose up to three months of math and science knowledge, which puts them significantly behind their peers. This disparity is particularly stark amongst students of color, who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the educational challenges it caused. Chicago Public Schools will also host over 93,000 summer programs in 2021, which will support the social, emotional, and academic recovery of students.

“Our Library’s summer learning programs are especially important given this past school year in COVID. Through a summer of reading and art-themed activities, our Chicago children will deepen their curiosity and creativity, heading back to school as more inspired and stronger readers,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown. “Summer programs offered at CPL are investments in the people of Chicago and their futures. CPL’s talented staff have developed hundreds of inspiring learning opportunities to make those futures bright.”

For kids 0-13 and their caregivers, “Start With Art” explores identity, community, and creative expression through interactive challenges, reading, games, grab-and-go activity kits, and events. Participation in the Summer Learning Challenge encourages 20 minutes of daily reading and completing five thematic activities—such as visiting the library, examining a neighborhood mural, or creating a piece of art.

"Start With Art” inspires children to be “Art in Action” activists who search for art throughout the city—including The Obama Portraits at the Art Institute of Chicago. In partnership with the museum, registered Summer Learning Challenge participants will receive a ticket admitting kids and teens under 18, along with four accompanying adults, to enter the museum while the exhibition is live. Tickets are included in the “Start With Art” Activity Guide, available to all registered participants at their local library. The Activity Guide also highlights literacy and art opportunities around public art in Pilsen, Rogers Park, and East Garfield Park.

“This summer, it’s important that Chicagoans reconnect with each other and our city through the vast amount of public art available in Chicago—including notable pieces located within library branches,” said CPL Board President Linda Johnson Rice. “The youth of Chicago can learn quite a bit about the history of our neighborhoods through art in our various communities. It is also so important to integrate the experience of our nation’s first African American president by partnering with The Art Institute to offer families access to the former President and First Lady’s portraits.”

The Teen Summer Challenge, “Make Space. Take Action.,” for teens 13-18 encourages self-expression and local activism through art, social justice, digital media production, and neighborhood greenification. “Make Space. Take Action.” highlights include grab-and-go kits developed in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art, social media internships, and multiple mural installations coordinated with local artists. CPL librarians and staff will also be trained as My Chi. My Future navigators to help young people find activities and opportunities to stay engaged all summer long. CPL will be employing over 200 high school students this summer, including 50 who will also be trained as My Chi, My Future navigators, helping Chicago peers navigate and locate summer opportunities.

"The Make Summer Yours Program keeps Chicago children engaged, safe, and learning throughout the summer by encouraging our youth to participate in community activism, creative expression, and art; this is exactly how our children should be spending their summer," said 39th Ward Alderman Sam Nugent. “Art allows us to explore our individual and collective feelings, narratives, and experiences, and the Library’s summer programming around this theme is particularly potent for Chicago’s teenagers.”

Building on interest-driven programming honed in YOUmedia, additional programs include the “What’s Your Lens” photo challenge, designed in collaboration with CPL’s Adult Services and Special Collections and Exhibits departments; a DSLR photo safari with Shine, On Chicago! and the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE); Radical Fit x Queering the Parks resource fair at Ping Tom Park in collaboration with the Chicago Park District; and an interactive “Pick 4” bingo card available online and in branches. For complete information on the Teen Summer Challenge, visit

Adult patrons are also encouraged to explore “Make Summer Yours” through crafting kit programs hosted by CPL’s Maker Lab, virtual public art tours led by urbanologist Max Grinnell, a summer reading challenge, and many online events.

Last year’s Summer Learning Challenge was fully remote, with 100,000 grab-and-go kits distributed, more than 600 online programs, and mobile services at 12 weekly events. This year’s program will combine digital and in-person events to give families options for participation at any comfort level. Additional Summer Learning Challenge partners include Once Upon Our Time Capsule, a project designed for children grades K-5 to create time capsules telling their 2020-2021 stories and experiences. Twenty-five participating library locations will offer capsule tubes for patrons to create their own, design the exterior, and return them to the depositories. Select branches will also offer free meals for children courtesy of CPL’s ongoing partnership with the Chicago Greater Food Depository.

This Summer Learning Challenge is presented in partnership with Once Upon Our Time Capsule, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Museum of Mexican Art. A complete list of partners can be viewed here. The Summer Learning Challenge made possible in great part by Amazon; the James & Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation; Exelon; the Family Learning Partnerships Fund; the Helen M. Harrison Foundation; KPMG; Wintrust; Peoples Gas; Cubs Charities Community Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund; the Dr. Scholl Foundation; the Walter E. Heller Foundation; Norfolk Southern; the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation; and other generous donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

The Teen Summer Learning Challenge “Make Space. Take Action.” is presented in partnership with The John Walt Foundation, Lincoln Park Zoo, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Territory Chicago. Support for YOUmedia is made possible by lead sponsor Allstate; BMO Harris Bank; the James and Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation; Comcast; the Oppenheimer Family Foundation; the Best Buy Foundation and other generous donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

Summer programs at CPL build upon the City’s commitment to keeping families and youth safe, engaged, and empowered through My CHI. My Future. and One Summer Chicago. More information on the City’s summer is available at

About Chicago Public Library

Since 1873, Chicago Public Library (CPL) has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment, and knowledge through innovative services and programs, as well as cutting-edge technology. Through its 81 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits, and programs for children, teens, and adults. For more information, please call (312) 747-4300 or visit To follow CPL on social media, visit us on Twitter (@chipublib), Facebook (Chicago Public Library), or Instagram (@chicagopubliclibrary).

About Chicago Public Library Foundation

The Chicago Public Library Foundation (CPLF) is an independent nonprofit that exists to accelerate the potential of our public library by investing in resources that transform lives and communities. Together with its civic-minded partners, CPLF makes pathways to learning, creativity, and civic engagement accessible to Chicagoans of all ages through investment across three funding priority areas: Closing the Academic Opportunity Gap; Activating Creativity & Connection for All; and Bridging the Digital Divide.