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Wash & Learn Initiative

Laundromats provide an ideal space to engage with busy families. Clients return weekly and wait an average of 90 minutes for their clothes to wash and dry. Laundromats are open almost 24/7, providing a space to learn even after the library has closed. LWB has worked in partnership with public libraries and community-based organizations to design, implement, and evaluate the Wash & Learn Initiative (WALI) in 8 states and the District of Columbia.

The Laundry & Literacy Coalition

In March 2017, Libraries Without Borders partnered with the LaundryCares Foundation and Too Small to Fail to create the Laundry Literacy Coalition. This national coalition of libraries and community-based organizations works together to share best-practices and tools. Our goal is to scale literacy programs to the waiting areas of all 30,000 coin laundries across the United States.

I’m a mom with 3 kids and 2 jobs. I want to take a computer class at the library, but my work schedule is always changing and I can’t afford to miss a shift. This program lets me learn on my own time.
— WALI Participant in Detroit

WALI’s Impact on Laundry Spaces

Librarian engaging with a child at a “Laundry & Literacy Kit” launch site in New York.

Librarian engaging with a child at a “Laundry & Literacy Kit” launch site in New York.

In 2018, Dr. Susan Neuman, Professor of Childhood and Literacy Education at New York University, conducted a two-phase pilot experimental study of New York spaces equipped with the “Laundry & Literacy Kit”. Created by the collaboration of Too Small to Fail, the LaundryCares Foundation, and Libraries Without Borders, the robust “Laundry & Literacy Kit” consists of high-quality materials designed to create playful, literacy-rich spaces for young children and families in the laundromat environment.

The findings from this evaluation demonstrate that the laundromat can serve as an important environment for early literacy development.

  • Children were observed engaging in 30 times more literacy activities in laundromats that include the literacy areas compared to laundromats that did not have these areas.

  • The librarian’s presence in the laundromat also prompted children to engage in significantly more sustained literacy-related activities, compared to the control sites.

  • It is also clear that parents were more much likely to observe their children’s literacy activities than they were to engage in them. Parents had more opportunities to observe ideal models of interactive reading and language-rich activities and seemed delighted with their children’s accomplishments.

  • Customers had high praise for the literacy spaces and felt greater loyalty to the laundromat. Some families noted that they visited these laundromats because of the presence of the “Laundry & Literacy Kits.” Customers even suggested that these spaces showed them that laundromat owners cared about their community.

Read the full Impact Report here: Impact Report


Wash & Learn Initiative National Sites

This is a list of all the past, present, and upcoming WALI national pop-up sites in the United States. Follow our Twitter @BSF_USA and Instagram @librarieswithoutborders to keep updated on our ongoing programs.

CALIFORNIA

  • Family Laundry: 2609 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

MICHIGAN

  • Fit and Fold: 8735 2nd Ave. Detroit, MI 48202

  • Coinless Laundromat: 1309 Oakman Blvd, Detroit, MI 48238

  • Sunshine Laundry: 7810 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48210

MINNESOTA

  • Giant Wash Coin Laundry: 1675 Rice St., Saint Paul, MN

  • Tidalwave Laundromat: 1415 Fifth Avenue South, Anoka, MN

  • Giant Wash Coin Laundry: 401 First Avenue West, Shakopee, MN

NEW YORK

  • Lavanderia Express IV Inc: 756 St Ann's Ave, The Bronx, NY 10456

PENNSYLVANIA

  • Olympia Coin Laundry: 4313 Walnut St #43, McKeesport, PA 15132

  • Sudsy’s Laundromat: 2550 Brownsville Rd, South Park Township, PA 15129

TEXAS

  • EZ Wash St. Cloud: 319 St Cloud Road San Antonio, TX 78228

  • EZ Wash Culebra: 7616 Culebra Road San Antonio, TX 78251

MARYLAND

  • Sudsville Laundry: 7001 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore, MD 21215

  • Sudsville Laundry: 3921 Erdman Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21213

  • Laundry City West: 3421 Frederick Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21229

  • HIPP Laundromat: 3101 Pulaski Highway, Baltimore, MD 21224

NORTH CAROLINA

  • The Wash House: 2000 Chapel Hill Rd, Durham, NC 27707

  • The Wash House: 1839 Liberty St, Durham, NC 27703

DONATE

Thank you for donating to support WALI. By meeting families at laundromat waiting areas, WALI reduces transportation and scheduling costs, allowing most WALI programs to cost under $1/engagement.

With any questions about WALI’s methodology, partners, demonstrated impact, and/or volunteer opportunities please e-mail Carly Wais at carly.wais[at]librarieswithoutborders.org.