Laundromats

Because Learning Happens Everywhere

It’s Saturday morning in a downtown Durham neighborhood. A mom, her seven-year-old son, and four-year-old daughter take the bus to The Wash House, a laundromat where they spend two hours each week in what could be a hum-drum and boring cycle. But not for this family. “I love coming here!” shouts the boy as he leaps into the laundromat, scoring a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid to take home and keep forever, his little sister skipping behind him.

wash and learn girls

In this laundromat, a routine chore is transformed into a book-filled, literacy-rich adventure. The family has timed their laundromat visit to coincide with storytime; after giggles and delight in the stories, the boy, his sister, and several new friends turn to Play-Doh and other activities to spark learning. The time while their laundry spins passes quickly; they leave with their laundry basket full of clean clothes and a dozen books they’ve selected from brimming shelves, to fuel their bedtime stories until they return in a week.

Book Harvest's Laundromat initiative exemplifies the community partnerships we have created to accomplish an audacious goal: to remove ALL obstacles to literacy for children in our midst, beginning in the ordinary and informal settings that characterize our neighborhoods and starting with families as soon as their children are born.

Book Harvest team members are at three Durham Wash House Laundromats throughout the week with regular storytimes and literacy programming. Also, at all three locations, we maintain bookshelves filled with free children’s books that are available any time the laundromats are open; children are invited to choose an unlimited number of books from these shelves to take home and keep forever.

The launch of this program was made possible with a generous grant from the Triangle Learning Network and in partnership with Libraries Without Borders, The LaundryCares Foundation, and Too Small to Fail.

Read the exciting research conducted by Dr. Susan Neuman, Professor of Childhood and Literacy
Education at New York University, demonstrating that the laundromat can serve as an important environment for early literacy development.

Read the feature article on the front page of The News and Observer about our work in laundromats and the national laundry and literacy movement.

Want to learn more about our partnership with laundromats? Contact Book Bank Manager, Caitlyn Bergmann, at caitlyn@bookharvest.org or (252) 497-BOOK. You can also download a pdf of our one-page report.

Our work in laundromats is made possible with generous support from:

Awesome Raleigh-Durham Foundation
Duke University Community Care Fund
Durham County Government
Durham Merchants Association Charitable Foundation
Durham’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
The Wash House Laundromats
Triangle Learning Network

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