San Mateo County Libraries to Accelerate Summertime Youth Learning Gains

Summer is almost here, and San Mateo County Libraries is excited to offer different options to support free hands-on learning for youth! In addition to our impactful Big Lift Inspiring Summers (BLIS) camps and our Summer Learning Challenge, we are accelerating youth learning gains with exciting new, free learning experiences for youth. Come explore with us!

Big Lift Inspiring Summers

BLIS camps are a free, full day program that includes a morning literacy program led by district teachers and an afternoon STEAM enrichment program led by San Mateo County Libraries. Based on the Center for Childhood Creativity, opens a new window at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, opens a new window's CREATE Framework, SMCL's STEAM enrichment curriculum offers engaging activities that are:

  • Child-Directed: Do the children take charge of their own learning, develop planning skills, and have choices?
  • Risk-Friendly: Does the learning community encourage children to take safe risks, try new approaches, and experience small failures to build resilience?
  • Emotionally Attuned: Do the adult leaders pay attention to children’s psychological states and reduce stress?
  • Active: Are there ample opportunities for youth to move around? Can children learn by doing in this setting?
  • Time-Flexible: Does the learning environment allow children to get into a state of “flow”?
  • Exploratory: Are there ample opportunities for investigating and producing in which there is not one correct answer? Is there time for unstructured play?

Library Explorers

Library Explorers is a new, free, in-library enrichment camp for students in rising kindergarten through 5th grade. In Library Explorers, youth will learn through hands-on STEAM experiences. They will get to practice their reading, math, and socio-emotional skills--while having fun--in preparation for the 2021-2022 school year. From June through July, Library Explorers will be offered at most San Mateo County Libraries Monday-Wednesday. 

Families CREATE

Families CREATE is also a new program that will engage families of 1st-5th graders in both do-it-yourself and do-it-guided activities with live, interactive virtual experiences! We will provide a total of 1,500 free STEAM kits available for pick up at all San Mateo County Libraries Locations (the kits are available in English and Spanish and while supplies last).

San Mateo County Libraries will also partner with local Parks and Recreation Departments to provide free books, library cards, and hands-on learning materials to youth enrolled in their programs. There is additional funding to subsidize admission for high-need youth to increase enrollment and access to quality experiences. 

Summer Learning Challenge 2021 - Coming Soon!

And don’t forget about our Summer Learning Challenge! Check out our website for more details in the coming weeks.

All youth with SMCL library cards will automatically be included in our Summer Learning Challenge celebrations and will have a chance to win one of 13  $1,000 college scholarships! If you don’t already have your very own SMCL library card, you will want one! Get a library card here!

You can also sign up online at to be part of this exploring, discovering, playing, experimenting, reading, talking, singing, smiling, laughing, a can't-do-it-wrong program that combines the fun of new experiences with virtual library programs.

This annual crowd-pleasing program runs until August 30th and is chock full of opportunities for fun and discovery. The Summer Learning Challenge also means we will be giving you free books that will be yours to keep and read and re-read over the summer. Your FREE Summer Learning Challenge books will be available to pick up at your library starting June 1! Happy Reading!

This year has been especially challenging for youth – learning in a COVID environment made learning difficult for many, often deepening the learning divide for students who are in high need.

On May 17th, the Library JPA Board unanimously approved additional funds to support positive whole child outcomes and learning gains this summer. 

“We understand the gravity of pandemic impacts and just how powerful and effective youth enrichment experiences are,” said Reuben Holober, Millbrae Councilmember and Chair of the Library JPA Governing Board. “Now is the time for our libraries to take action to help support our youth, and we were thrilled to approve new summer initiatives to get kids ready for the next school year.”