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Seattle Libraries Can Keep Kids Busy This Summer For Free

caption: Eleven-year-olds Ahana Roy and Lucy Thackray in a video game coding class at Seattle Public Library's Northeast Branch.
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Eleven-year-olds Ahana Roy and Lucy Thackray in a video game coding class at Seattle Public Library's Northeast Branch.

Teach a kid to code and she’ll build her own video game – and maybe not lose so much learning between school years.

That’s the idea behind a new generation of summer learning programs at the Seattle Public Library.

For nearly a century, the library has offered summer reading program where kids compete to see who can read the most books. But studies show that along with reading skills, kids also need to flex their math and science muscles over the summer to prevent learning loss.

On a recent balmy afternoon, an electric fan ruffled the hair of kids hunched over laptop computers at the Northeast Branch Library as they learned to build their own video games.

This five-session coding class is just one of hundreds of free classes for young people the library is offering this summer at branches around the city. The emphasis is on science and technology – from building robots to digital photography.

Eleven-year-old friends Ahana Roy and Lucy Thackray had drawn out their characters on paper and were bringing them to life on-screen. "So far, we're making a platform from our previous game, when we added a different character," Roy explained.

The next step? Testing the game. "And if it doesn't work, or something is wrong, we change it and make it better," Roy said.

The library's Linda Braun said the Seattle Public Library Foundation, along with U.S. Bank and the Woodland Park Zoo, funded the program to keep kids learning over the summer -- especially those who typically lack access to educational opportunities.

Braun said studies show summer learning loss takes a particular toll on low-income students. "We think it's really important here in Seattle to provide that opportunity to keep up and have no divide when young people are going back to school in September," she said.

This coding class appealed to Roy and Thackray because they love the coding class they took at their elementary school -- and because it beats their normal summer routines at home, which they said range from reading and drawing to just staring at the ceiling.

Seattle Public Library's summer classes for kids have been so popular -- many with long wait lists -- that Braun said they'll definitely offer a science and technology theme next summer, too.

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