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Literacy at the Laundromat – new program in Chicago transforms a chore into a chance to learn

USNews: “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. Amid the muffled churn of the washers and the humming of dryers, anywhere between a handful to more than a dozen children hear stories, sing songs and play games designed to help their brains develop. The event also aims to tacitly instruct parents on how to repeat the experience for their kids, working to reverse poor literacy rates in underserved communities. “We read books, we sing songs, we do (finger-puppet) plays,” says Becca Ruidl, the CPL’s STEAM Team early learning manager, who runs the Laundromat Story Time program. “We kind of keep it going so parents can walk in and join in at any time. (But) a big part of what we do is model literary skills for parents so they can do it at home with their kids.”…”

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