OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. — Separated physically by the COVID pandemic, organizers of the 3rd annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit still managed to bring hundreds of vended laundry owners, librarians, educators, philanthropists and others together virtually for a three-day event spread over two weeks in mid-September.
Since 2015, the LaundryCares Foundation, an affiliate of the Coin Laundry Association, and Too Small to Fail have focused on the role of Laundromats in promoting children’s early literacy development.
This year’s virtual series conducted via Zoom was designed to bolster awareness, access and action. Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to transform inspiration into action by creating their own plan that would spell out the concrete steps they will take to make a positive difference in their community.
The opening session focused on how Laundromats can play an important role in supporting early language brain development, and how community leaders have used these spaces as channels to engage children and families.
CLA CEO Brian Wallace moderated a panel about Laundromats and Their Essential Role in a COVID-19 World. Panelists were Brian Holland, Laundry Café, Philadelphia; Jim Whitmore, WSI Laundry Corp., Gloucester, Mass.; and Jane Wolfe, Wash World, New Orleans. All have stores featuring Family Read, Play & Learn centers that promote an inviting, literacy-rich space for young children and their parents.
Also on that opening-day agenda was a pre-recorded conversation between President Bill Clinton, chairman of the Clinton Foundation, and Wes Moore of the Robin Hood Foundation about answering the call to serve others.
Session 2 focused on taking action and was the forum for Dr. Susan Neuman, New York University, to release key findings from a seven-month evaluation of Chicago Laundromats and literacy efforts.
"What we found were striking changes in the amount of literacy activities and that the Family, Read, Play & Learn Center really created an opportunity for children to play, to enjoy one another, to develop a literacy culture," Neuman says.
The closing session included programming moderated by Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, who spoke with Judge Ramona A. Gonzalez, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges about Laundromats as a Solution to Creating a More Equitable, Caring and Compassionate Society.