Once a week, several of the self-service laundromats in underserved areas of Chicago are converted into makeshift libraries where children can read or listen to stories, sing songs, and play educational games. In a city where more than 60 percent of low-income households don’t own any children’s books, the “Laundromat Story Time” program is filling a void, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Ever since the Chicago Public Library launched the program in March 2018, it has become a routine in many families’ lives. It has also proven helpful to parents, who receive tips from librarians on how to replicate these reading habits at home and instill a love of reading in their children. One recent study revealed that people who grow up with books at home tend to have better reading comprehension skills as well as better mathematical and digital communication skills later in life.
But why hold story hour at a laundromat instead of a library, or perhaps at a coffee shop? Becca Ruidl, who runs the Laundromat Story Time program, told U.S. News & World Report the idea is to make the program as convenient and accessible as possible. Since everyone needs clean clothes, and kids often join their parents on jaunts to the nearest laundromat, it seemed like a smart place to start.
Libraries Without Borders, which co-sponsored the Chicago program along with the LaundryCares Foundation, has held similar “Wash and Learn” programs in other cities. Pop-up libraries have appeared at laundromats in New York and Detroit as well as in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and St. Paul, Minnesota.
“One thing that makes laundromats so unique is that you have a captive audience,” Adam Echelman of Libraries Without Borders told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when a laundromat program was hosted in the city last June. "We’re meeting families where they are. Instead of asking you to come to the library, we’re bringing these opportunities directly to you.”
[h/t U.S. News & World Report]