CHICAGO — As part of the Clinton Foundation’s work on early learning through its Too Small to Fail initiative, vice chair Chelsea Clinton met with local families and participants at the second annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit. During a March 20 visit to the Wash Time Laundry on Fullerton Avenue, Clinton announced the expansion of Laundromat-based early literacy programs in the city and shared the results of a new evaluation on their effectiveness.
“We know the first five years of a child’s life are crucial for early literacy and brain development,” Clinton says. “I’m so proud that through the work of Too Small to Fail and the Laundry Literacy Coalition, we are meeting families where they are — providing parents, grandparents, and caregivers with critical resources to set children up for success later in life.”
The Summit hosted by Laundry Literacy Coalition partners Too Small to Fail, the LaundryCares Foundation, and Libraries Without Borders brought together a diverse group of national early childhood and literacy organizations and foundations, and Laundromat owners and manufacturers.
These groups explored ways to work together to create playful learning spaces in Laundromats across the country with the goal of providing families with tools and resources to support children’s early brain and language development.
The opening of a new “Family Read & Play Space” at Wash Time included remarks and story time led by Clinton, the Chicago Public Library, and Encore.org’s Gen2Gen campaign. This visit also included a comprehensive tour of the facility and a reading of Too Small to Fail’s new children’s book DJ’s Busy Day released by Scholastic Inc.
“Family Read & Play Spaces” are playful, literacy-rich areas to help prompt language-rich activities like talking, reading, singing, writing, and playing among young children and their parents/caregivers. These spaces include a sofa, bookshelf filled with high-quality children’s books, puppets, crayons, in-store signage for parents, an alphabet rug, blocks, magnetic letters, and family tip sheets.
EVALUATION FINDS PROGRAM IS EFFECTIVE
As part of the Summit, Dr. Susan Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at New York University, presented the results of an evaluation on the effectiveness of “Family Read & Play Spaces” that were piloted in three Laundromats across New York City.
Evaluation findings overwhelmingly showed that Laundromats can serve as an important environment for early literacy development.
The findings revealed that:
- The “Family Read & Play Space” significantly enhanced children’s time spent on literacy-rich activities that support school readiness (children were observed engaging in 30 times more literacy activities in Laundromats that include the spaces compared to the Laundromats that did not have these areas);
- When the spaces were paired with librarians, children engaged in substantial and sustained literacy activities (the average stay per child was 47 minutes);
- Parents expressed pride and delight as they observed their children’s literacy-related activities;
- Parents observed librarians modeling a rich array of literacy activities and expressed their enthusiasm for the literacy spaces and librarians’ visits;
- Customers overwhelmingly expressed their enthusiasm for the literacy space and said they chose to come to that specific Laundromat because of it; and
- Laundromat owners and staff also expressed unanimous praise for the literacy areas.
NEW COMMITMENTS TO EXPAND EARLY LITERACY PROMOTION EFFORTS
The Laundry Literacy Coalition announced new commitments to expand efforts nationwide to transform neighborhood Laundromats into playful, literacy-rich places for families, caregivers, and their children:
- The LaundryCares Foundation will expand the “Family Read & Play Spaces” into 600 new locations by March 2020 (250 local Laundromats have already committed to integrate these spaces into their stores);
- The LaundryCares Foundation will host a minimum of 30 “Free Laundry & Literacy Days” within a year that will include free books and literacy resources, volunteers, and more;
- The Coin Laundry Association (CLA) will promote the “Family Read & Play Spaces” as a basic component of future Laundromat designs by sharing sample layouts with laundry equipment manufacturers, distributors, and the CLA’s network of 5,000 retail, self-service laundries;
- Too Small to Fail and Encore.org’s Gen2Gen initiative are launching a new “Gen2Gen Laundromat Literacy Volunteer Guide,” which provides strategies to recruit volunteers aged 50 and older and provide them with tips and resources to lead early literacy programming in Laundromats; and
- Too Small to Fail is committing to lead coalition efforts for more research on the role of Laundromats in promoting early literacy.
Too Small to Fail, LaundryCares and Libraries Without Borders launched the Laundry & Literacy Coalition late last year but the groups have launched several initiatives since 2015 to deliver high-quality early literacy resources and outreach programs directly into local self-service Laundromats.
New Alliance to Promote Early Literacy Through Laundromats Nationwide, Dec. 10, 2018
Summit Explores Laundromat’s Role in Promoting Literacy, March 29, 2018