By Margaret Walker, Blog Editor
One of our goals here at the NPHR Blog is to spotlight public health organizations within the community. One great organization that may not initially be associated with public health is the Chicago Public Library (CPL). The CPL system has 80 locations (see left) throughout the city and is free to residents. They have a variety of events, programs, and resources for the public, and best of all, they have wonderful programs to both directly and indirectly improve health in the city. Below, I have put together a short summary of some of the many resources available by age group.
There is ample evidence showing the power of books from a young age. Extensive economic and public health research has established a link between early education and long-term health and economic outcomes, and programs that promote early literacy, such as Reach out and Read, have demonstrated the importance of reading, starting at six months old, with regards to school readiness. Many families may not own children’s books, but the public library will allow you to check out a variety of age and language appropriate books. In addition, CPL provides specific classes and programs to encourage story time in young children.
FEATURED PROGRAM: One great way to get involved is to become a “Super Explorer” and join Rham’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge. There are hundreds of events to explore around the city, and if kids (0-13) complete the challenges they can be entered to win prizes!
The social determinants of health can support or threaten health at every age. These factors include education, socioeconomic status, and environment. One way to combat the harmful effects of outside forces is through education. The CPL system has free tutors for students, job training, STEM related resources as well as classes aimed at teens. Programs can be found throughout the entire city.
FEATURED PROGRAM: This summer CPL is calling on teens to “Elevate their Voice.” Through creation, volunteering, and sharing of ideas teens are creating change across the city. There are opportunities to learn skills through the IntuiTeen DIY workshops and opportunities to share stories through open mic nights, writing and drawing contests, and hangout sessions!
The CPL system is helping to directly improve the health of adults by offering yoga classes and cooking classes while other programs such as parenting classes and job assistance help to support individuals. Creating a real-life social network through the library can not only improve mental health but also physical health. Of course, there are always books and book clubs to help expand one’s horizons.
FEATURED PROGRAM: There is currently an adult reading challenge that encourages people to read books from around the world. Those who complete the challenge can enter to win prizes such as T-Shirts and coffee gift cards.
I personally love my Chicago Public Library Branch. Not only have I been able to read interesting books for free, but I have also been able to have a space to study. The wealth of classes, resources, and general fun that the library provides to Chicago is invaluable. The CPL system strives to provide a safe space for exploration and helps to support the health of Chicago citizens in unique and exciting ways.
For our readers outside of Chicago, make sure to check out the programs at your own public library!