Entering Junior High (7-8) Literacy

Welcome to the Literacy Virtual Learning University page! We’re so glad you’re here! Below are some activities to challenge and keep you learning throughout the summer. If you are unable to complete the challenges below for any reason, feel free to adjust the activity to meet your learner's specific needs. Happy Learning!

Challenge 1: Get a Hold of a Good Book and READ!

Pick a book, or two or three, from the Summer Reading Suggestions. Visit the library to check out new books and read! Keep returning to the library all summer to read, read, and read some more!! You can keep a tally or list of the books you read throughout the summer.

Challenge 2: Random Notes of Kindness

Research shows that positive brains have an advantage over brains that are neutral or negative. Focusing on positivity can improve your happiness and overall engagement. With this in mind, write a quick note that shares a compliment, positive quote, or how they bring happiness to your life to a family member, friend, neighbor, or someone in your community. Keep a tally of the number of people you spread kindness to throughout the summer.

Challenge 3: Food for Thought

Find a recipe to make. You can look online, follow the recipe from a cooking book or show, ask a family member or friend for a loved recipe. Make the dish and invite people to try your cooking. Take notes after you’ve made the recipe. What was easy to follow in the directions? What was difficult? Annotate what you might change and why. Give a review of the final product: Did you like it? Why or why not? If you make it again, what could you do differently?


Create a recipe with specific easy to follow directions. Make the item. Take pictures as you go. Ask family or friends to try the recipe and review it. Write a narrative or a summary of your experience creating a delectable dish. Each great recipe has a story…..

Consider reading these cooking books to help you find inspiration.

Paired Fiction Books:

  • Scones and Sensibility
  • Pizza, love and other stuff that made me famous
  • Cake pop crush
  • All Four Stars

Paired Non-Fiction Books:

  • Cookbook for Teens
  • The Healthy Teens Cookbook
  • Master Chefs (Teen)
  • Eat Fresh Food (Awesome recipes for Teen Chefs)

Challenge 4: Nature is an Inspiration

Nature has been a source of inspiration to many great authors and poets. See why by exploring the outdoors. Find a quiet place outside. It could be an area as familiar as your backyard or as extravagant as a vacation setting. You can check out natural spaces in the Chicagoland area such as the Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanical Gardens, Fermilab, local nature centers, Starved Rock, etc.

Once you have found an inspirational natural setting, try your hand at writing. Write a poem about a scene you are observing or write an essay about the way nature makes you feel. Tune in to your senses. Try to capture the moment by expressing your internal landscape as you observe and interact with nature. Consider reading the below texts to enhance your ideas:


  • Silent Spring
  • Walden Pond
  • Robert Frost
  • Emily Dickinson


  • 60 Hikes, 60 miles
  • Illinois Hiking

Challenge 5: History is a Narrative

Delve into the narrative of local history. Find a local historical marker or sight and go to the library. Research what made this space historically significant. Our area is rich in history, whether it is a house used for the underground railroad, an old farm or a war monument. Find out about the people who inhabited this area and how their story helped shape the community. Reflect on your experience by writing an article about it. Take notes, take pictures, and have fun! Get more information at the Illinois Historical Society website.

Local places to visit:

  • Blackberry Farm- Aurora
  • Heritage Farm- Schaumburg
  • The Paramount Theater- Aurora
  • Springfield
  • Galena
  • Cantigny- Winfield
  • Geneva’s old post office

Challenge 6: How Reading and Writing Help Shape Science

Illinois boasts two of the most renowned laboratories in the country, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab. Both laboratories have informational magazines, cultural events and natural areas that tell a story. The public areas offer information about the development of the labs and their purpose. Explore the scientific community by reading about their contributions, watch a webinar of one of the lecture series, or participate in their community programming.

Challenge yourself to write an essay incorporating what you learned on one of the following topics:

  1. Together, we can feed the world
  2. Together, we can build a secure energy
  3. Together, we can protect people and the environment
  4. Together, we can be innovative

Visit the website for more information:

Challenge 7: Movies in the Park Movie Review

The Chicagoland area offers a multitude of opportunities for family outings in the summer. Find a park district or forest preserve offering a movie selection of “movies in the park” that look interesting to you. You might also want to see if there are free local theater opportunities around you. Write a review about the movie, play or your general experience. The tone of the review should be persuasive and detailed.

Challenge 8: Explore your Local Libraries

Libraries are unique to the community around them. They try to create programing and activities that match the needs of the population they serve. Try to visit as many local libraries as you can to try different programming, see a variety of books and authors highlighted, listen to author’s give book talks, etc.

Keep a log of where you visited, what you saw/learned and details about the quality of your experience. You might even want to join a book club or writing club for teens.

Local Libraries to visit:

Challenge 9: College Investigation 101

It’s never too early to start thinking about college. Take a trip to visit some of the local colleges to see what they offer. Visit the different buildings, the libraries, and public areas. Take a trip to Northwestern, Elmhurst College, Harper College, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Chicago, Wheaton College, etc.

Start thinking about what you might want to do with your future by checking out some reference books as the library. Consider some of the following:

  • Confessions of a Scholarship Winner
  • What Color is Your Parachute for Teens
  • The Scholarship Solution
  • Find the Best Colleges for You
  • Colleges Change Lives

Challenge 10: Screen Free Challenge

Here’s your challenge if you choose to accept it… Give up digital entertainment for an entire day or even a week! Challenge yourself to say no to TVs, computers, tablets, cell phones, and video games! To help yourself succeed, tell your family members about your challenge and invite them to participate. You can hide your devices or even hang a “Don’t Turn Me On” sign on your TV. For a bonus, keep a journal of how you feel during your screen-free day or week. What is it like to be screen-free? How long will your family survive this screen-free challenge?!