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Posts Tagged ‘laundromat’

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Photo: Chicago Public Library
Chicago Public Library STEAM Team First Assistant Librarian Alejandra Santana (left) reads to storytime attendees at Bubbleland laundromat.

Suzanne and Erik’s son went through a period of being utterly enraptured and entranced by washing machines. When his uncle came to visit from Denmark, he made him sit on the floor of the bathroom with him and marvel at the wash cycle. When his sister was born, he pushed her baby bed in front of the washing machine to show her the greatest wonder of life. When my husband babysat him, he insisted on visiting the local laundromat just to watch the machines work. All the staff knew him.

So when I saw this story about the Chicago library system setting up story hours for young children in laundromats, I thought of my grandson. He would have considered library outreach an intrusion on his contemplation (he once sent my husband out of the laundry room because he was in the way), but I think that for other kids, libraries in laundromats would be fantastic.

Anne Ford writes at American Libraries, “Laundry: It’s got to be done. And if you’re in a family with small children and no washer or dryer at home, it’s got to be done at the neighborhood laundromat — probably every week, probably on the same day every week, and probably with those children in tow.

“That’s why, in 1989, Chicago Public Library (CPL) Children’s Librarian Elizabeth McChesney (now CPL’s director of children’s services and family engagement) visited a local laundromat to introduce herself to families. How she responded to what she saw there would help change the landscape of children’s literacy initiatives for decades to come.

“ ‘What I saw was that these were families who, because of a variety of circumstances, were not likely to come to the library for storytime,’ she says. So she went back to the library, threw some books, a couple of puppets, and a tambourine into a laundry basket, walked it back to the laundromat, and held a storytime for the kids there — right on the spot, as the washers whirred.

“McChesney’s not claiming she started the laundry-and-literacy movement. ‘People have done this off and on for the last 25, 30 years,’ she says. Still, thanks to her, CPL continues to hold regular storytimes at laundromats across Chicago. And, she says, the librarians who participate continue to see rewards.

“ ‘Families are now changing their behavior, showing up to do their laundry when the library is going to be there,’ she reports.

‘One little boy just recently said: “Let’s do laundry every day, Mom!” ‘ …

“Can’t these children simply go to a branch library instead? Not necessarily. As a recent paper on book deserts by Susan B. Neuman and Naomi Moland in the journal Urban Education (vol. 54, no. 1, p. 126–147) points out, in some areas, decreased funding for libraries has led to ‘limited hours and curtailed services’ — and in many low-income communities, demand has exceeded capacity or parents are often hesitant to check out books because of potential library fines. …

“Not all laundromat library programs are alike, though most operate with some type of librarian participation, direction, or materials curation.

“Wash Time Is Talk Time, an effort sponsored by [the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail (TSTF) early-childhood initiative and the Coin Laundry Association’s LaundryCares Foundation (LCF)], distributes posters in English and Spanish that encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their children while they do laundry; it also provides books to some laundromats to lend out. …

“How effective are these programs, and what kind of impact are they having on children’s literacy? To find out, [the Laundry and Literacy Coalition (LLC)] is working with Neuman. … The first part of that evaluation, conducted last year, found that children in laundromats with literacy resources engaged in 30 times more literacy activities — such as talking with their families, singing songs, drawing, and reading books — than children in laundromats without those resources. The second phase, announced in March, found that librarians in these programs increased child engagement in literacy-related activities.” More here.

Bubbleland on Western, a Chicago laundromat

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Suzanne and Erik’s 3-year-old is an expert on washing machines. He checks them out wherever he goes. Did you know, they have washing machines in hotels in Miami?

When in doubt about a way to entertain a grownup, he suggests doing a wash. And sometimes, when my husband is babysitting, the two of them go to the laundromat and investigate what cycle each machine is in. With the top-loaders (no windows) it can be tricky to get a sense of what is going on inside, so my grandson puts his ear to the tub and tells my husband what he concludes.

I’m not sure what he would make of story time at the laundromat, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR), but I suspect he would find the stories intrusive for serious work.

For other children, it could be the gateway to heaven.

Andrew Boryga reports at NPR that a group of friends at Oxford University is “developing a combination childhood education and laundry services center, a concept they’ve dubbed a ‘Libromat.’

“The five team members have extensive backgrounds in childhood education, and they pooled their talents to apply for the 2015 Hult Prize, a $1 million award for young social entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. This year’s challenge: provide self-sustainable education to impoverished urban areas. …

“According to the team’s research, mothers and caregivers in South Africa can spend a whopping nine hours per week hand-washing dirty clothes. ‘That’s one whole working day,’ team member David Jeffery, 23, says. So they aimed to solve two problems at once and teach mothers effective ways to read books to their infants in the amount of time it takes to complete a wash and spin cycle. And with the money collected from the laundry, they could keep this up for load after load. …

“In interviews conducted after the pilot, [Team member Nicholas] Dowdall was thrilled to learn that many of the mothers believed their relationships with their children had improved. Some even said their children were asking for story time every evening before bed.

“One participant, Ntomboxolo, 34, a mother who attended the sessions with her infant daughter, says, ‘I am a working mother, so more often than not I am tired. But now, I make time to share something in a book with my daughter every night.’ Ntomboxolo also says she saw changes in her daughter’s behavior: ‘There was not much communication before. I see her drawing closer to me.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

Photo: Justin Woods/Libromat
Parents do laundry and get advice on books to their kids.

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