On May 15, 2019, the Blue Kangaroo Laundromat on 10532 S Avenue B, Chicago, IL, installed a new Family Read, Play & Learn Space. This “space” is one of four kits developed by the Laundry Literacy Coalition to foster an early learning environment within self-service laundry businesses. The kits include high-quality tools and resources like tables and chairs, books, parent posters, and other materials to support early learning.

Before-and-After Pics

The gallery below shows the transformation of this location. LaundryCares would like to thank Midwest Laundries for their help and support with this project by pre-assembling and delivering the kits.

Literacy Study in Chicago

This Family Read, Play & Learn Space is one of ten slated to be installed in various laundromats within the Chicagoland area. The ten participating laundromats, along with another ten laundries which will run “business-as-usual” and not feature any of these kits, will be part of a study being conducted by Too Small to Fail, the early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation, and Dr. Susan Neuman of NYU Steinhardt. This study, which will run through November 2019, is the third stage of research on the effects of learning spaces in laundromats on the early brain and language development of children and the engagement of families in learning at the local laundromat. This evaluation is funded by The Valhalla Charitable Foundation.

Chicago Public Library will be conducting weekly story times during phase II of the study (set to begin in August). Phase I involves transforming the space by installing the kit. During Phase II, the sites will be “activated” by coupling the transformation with regular story times from CPL STEAM Team staff.

The initial study performed by Dr. Neuman took place in six New York laundry businesses. In the first phase of the New York study, three laundromats (the “treatment sites”) were transformed using the Family Read, Play & Learn kits, which the other three served as the control sites and were not transformed. In the second phase, librarians from Brooklyn, New York, and Queens Public Libraries conducted weekly storytimes in the treatment laundromats over an 8-week period. The outcome of this study was shared with literacy experts at the second annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit in Chicago in March 2019. The findings suggested that dedicated learning spaces within laundromats and a relationship with the local library begat benefits for children and their families as they washed the household’s laundry and engaged in reading and activities together.

Today, 57 percent of young children in the United States lack critical language and literacy skills and start kindergarten unprepared. Research shows that simple, everyday interactions with young children – such as describing objects seen during a walk, singing songs, or telling and reading stories – can build their vocabularies, prepare them for school, and lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning. We also know that families spend an average of 2.5 hours at the laundromat every week, making laundry time a valuable, yet often underutilized opportunity for early learning. Through efforts like those now underway in Chicago, families may be able to more effectively make use of the learning opportunities at the laundromat.

The Family Read, Play & Learn Spaces kits are available for sale through the LaundryCares Foundation. There are four scalable options designed to fit with a modest “footprint” in a well-lit area of a laundromat. The sizes range from 4’ X 6’ to 6’ X 9’ and feature sturdy and comfortable chairs, activity tables, book racks, plus replenishing subscriptions of books to be delivered periodically.