Literacy at the Laundromat (

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The research is all but irrefutable: Parents of very young children who talk to, read and engage with them as often as possible help them build literacy skills at an early age – an educational foundation that can give kids a jump-start on future academic success.

Also certain: Parents of very young children usually have to do a lot of laundry. And low-income families tend to bring their kids with them to public laundromats.

Those truths converge once a week at select neighborhood laundromats in Chicago. That's when librarians from one of the nation's largest library systems lay down colorful mats, oversized board books and musical shakers beside the industrial washing machines and wire laundry baskets.

Inside one of about 14 laundromats in the city's low-income neighborhoods, the librarians gather all available children for Laundromat Story Time, a Chicago Public Library program that combines early education principles with public outreach and a dash of parental modeling.

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Although the Chicago Public Library has been among the vanguard of those bringing library services to laundromats in recent years, both Libraries Without Borders and the LaundryCares Foundation – the charitable arm of industry trade group the Coin Laundry Association – had similar plans in the works, and library-laundromat efforts have cropped up in cities like DetroitNew YorkPittsburgh and St. Paul, Minnesota, as well.

To read more of Joseph P. Williams article,  please click here.



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