Wash and Learn Durham

Research demonstrates that children in poor neighborhoods live in book deserts, communities that have limited or no access to children’s books. Despite being urged “to read to your child!” parents in high poverty areas have few options in heeding this advice. And yet a wealth of research shows that parent/child interactions are not only critical to a child’s vocabulary development, but also a key predictor of academic flourishing. Recent literature provides evidence that Laundromats are a “third space” – after home and school – where families convene. Not only have they become “community centers,” they provide a regular opportunity for family time to engage in activities together. Guided by this research and by our commitment to create ubiquitous book-rich environments throughout Durham, our project aims to provide the resources and opportunity for parents and caregivers to explore language rich activities with their children in the simple moments of daily life. Laundromats will become informal learning spaces where children and families can access high-quality early learning and literacy materials as they wait for their clothes to wash and dry. We have been inspired by the work of national leaders who, like us, continue to explore opportunities for collaborative community-based, parent-focused solutions to the pervasive resource inequities that plague our children and families. These include Too Small to Fail and Libraries Without Borders who together have piloted similar programs. We are working in neighborhoods in Durham where we have a long-lived and highly regarded presence through partnerships with respective elementary schools and community centers. We hope to open more doors to literacy resources by transforming local laundromats into libraries and digital classrooms in a unique partnership with multi-generation, family-owned, North Carolina-based laundromat chain, The Wash House.

Funded by Raleigh-Durham, NC (May 2019)