Wash Time is Talk Time: Early Literacy in Laundromats
In 2015, Too Small to Fail, the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) and their partners committed to engage parents through approximately 5,000 laundromats in underserved communities by providing them with information and tools to support their children’s early brain and language development. TSTF will create a “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” toolkit with resources for families to use laundry time as meaningful opportunities to talk, read and sing with their children. The CLA will promote awareness about the kit among their 2,000 members and various communication channels. The Laundry Project, Jumpstart, First 5 Alameda, Encore.org and the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions commit to deploy volunteers, host story time events and deliver “Talking is Teaching” resources directly to families in laundromats across the country.
Too Small to Fail (TSTF), the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) and their partners commit to engage parents through approximately 5,000 laundromats in underserved communities and provide them with information and tools to support their children’s early brain and language development. The kit will be promoted through the CLA’s various communications channels, including the Planet Laundry magazine, reaches around 15,000 laundromats serving an estimated 7.5 million families weekly with a median household income of less than $30,000. The CLA will also raise awareness through its consumer website, www.findalaundry.org, which has around 55,000 monthly users.
TSTF commits to create a bilingual (English/Spanish) “Talking is Teaching” toolkit to help laundromat owners and community volunteers promote the importance of talking, reading, and singing. It will include free and engaging materials such as colorful in-store posters with parent-child conversation prompts (i.e. “Let’s Talk about Clothes”), family tip sheets, printable activity sheets, and a customizable flyer with information about local resources for families.
The CLA, a national association that serves laundry owners, will distribute this toolkit through its 2,000 members who own and operate approximately 5,000 laundromats across the country. With printed materials provided by the CLA, Laundry Project volunteers will integrate these resources into its 50 “free laundry day” events in low-income communities.
Jumpstart commits to engage families in three laundromats in Oakland, CA on October 22, 2015 with its annual Read for the Record campaign. Volunteers will host story times, model reading strategies, and distribute free copies of the children’s book, Not Norman: A Goldfish Story. Jumpstart will also provide training to Laundry Project and F5AC volunteers on early reading strategies, and distribute “Talking is Teaching” materials to families through its 4,000 national volunteers.
First 5 Alameda County (F5AC) commits to integrate “Talking is Teaching” resources into Jumpstart’s events. F5AC commits to organize at least five additional “Talking is Teaching” monthly reading events in Oakland laundromats and distribute 250 tote bags filled with early language development materials. F5AC will also manage three volunteers recruited by Encore.org to support these events.
The University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions (University of Arkansas) will distribute “Talking is Teaching” resources in 20 Northwest Arkansas laundromats and hold monthly story time events with children and families at selected locations. They will also conduct a pilot evaluation of the “Talking is Teaching” resources to determine any shifts in attitudes, knowledge, and behavior related to children’s early language development.
June – September 2015:
– TSTF develops “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” toolkit for laundromats
– CLA prepares editorial content to distribute through Planet Laundry magazine
– Encore.org recruits three volunteers to be managed by F5AC
– Jumpstart and TSTF host online training for Laundry Project and F5AC volunteers to launch Read for the Record and “Talking is Teaching”
– CLA prints and ships “Talking is Teaching” posters to participating laundromats
– TSTF shares digital files of the “Talking is Teaching” posters and other campaign resources with the University of Arkansas
October – December 2015:
– Jumpstart, F5AC, and Laundry Project volunteers launch Read for the Record campaign in three laundromats in Oakland, CA on October 22nd
– F5AC organizes up to two additional early literacy events at laundromats in Oakland, CA
– CLA publishes piece in Planet Laundry magazine to promote the “Talking is Teaching” campaign
– Laundry Project volunteers distribute “Talking is Teaching” toolkit materials and facilitate story time events in 12-13 laundromat locations
– University of Arkansas volunteers put up “Talking is Teaching” posters in 20 laundromats and host monthly story time events in Northwest Arkansas laundromats
January – March 2016:
– Laundry Project volunteers distribute “Talking is Teaching” materials and lead story times in 12-13 laundromat locations
– F5AC organizes three additional early literacy events at laundromats in Oakland, CA
– University of Arkansas volunteers continue distributing “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” resources in 20 laundromats and hosting monthly story time events in Northwest Arkansas laundromats
– Planet Laundry publishes an editorial piece about the launch of “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” and Read for the Record inside its magazine
April – June 2016:
– Laundry Project volunteers distribute “Talking is Teaching” materials and lead story time events in 12-13 laundromat locations
– University of Arkansas volunteers continue distributing “Talking is Teaching” resources in 20 laundromats and hosting monthly story time events in Northwest Arkansas laundromats
– CLA, Laundry Project, and TSTF promote toolkit and partnership at the Excellence in Laundry Conference on May 18-19, 2016 in Ojai, CA
– Planet Laundry publishes an editorial piece about the progress of “Talking is Teaching” campaign in laundromats
Studies have found striking differences in the vocabularies of children from higher-income families versus those from lower-income families. By the age of four, children from lower-income families have heard about 30 million fewer words than their higher-income counterparts. Unfortunately, this word gap leads directly to an “achievement gap” and these inequities during the preschool and kindergarten years largely persist throughout life.
Research shows that simple, everyday interactions such as talking, reading, and singing to young children, especially during the first five years of life, can improve language skills, boost brain development, and have a lifelong positive impact. In fact, the first three years of life are the most critical years for vocabulary development because the brain is best able to absorb language during this period. It is also a strong predictor of future critical developmental milestones, such as school readiness and reading at grade level in third grade.
However, parents, particularly those in low-income communities, face many structural barriers to engaging more with their children; they are often working multiple jobs and have limited time with their children. Therefore, it is critical to support parents “where they are” across multiple touch points. Since 80% of a young child’s time is spent outside a formal learning setting, more efforts should be placed on engaging parents in the informal, everyday places they often go with their children. Meeting parents in places they regularly visit, like their local laundromat, is a powerful way to reach families and provide parents with the knowledge and tools to support their children’s early brain and language development. With the average laundromat visit taking around two hours, laundry time offers a valuable, yet often overlooked opportunity for parents to engage in language-rich activities like talking, reading and singing with their children.
All activities described in the initial commitment have been completed within the original timeline. The Clinton Foundation and Coin Laundry Association (CLA) continue to encourage laundromat owners to utilize the Wash Time is Talk Time collateral in their laundries. Conversations continue among the original commitment partners to discuss future activities for Wash Time is Talk Time.
Too Small to Fail seeks financial resources to print about 6,000 “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” posters that would be designed to help make laundromats a more welcoming, playful, and colorful place for children and families to visit. The posters would feature vibrant, child-friendly visuals and fun conversation prompts to help parents turn laundry time into talking, reading, and singing time. A quantity of about 6,000 posters would enable the CLA to ship at least two posters each to their 2,000 members across the country. Jumpstart seeks financial resources to expand the reach of their “Read for the Record” campaign and deliver additional copies of the book, Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, to children and families.
Too Small to Fail and the CLA are interested in partnering with other organizations or businesses that currently use laundromats as vehicles to provide services to low-income families and host community related activities. Jumpstart offers training on Read for the Record campaign implementation, 25 special edition Read for the Record campaign books per laundromat, and promotion of events via social media. As part of the Oakland “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” community campaign, F5AC will fund 250 “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” tote bags to be distributed through five laundromat events organized by F5AC. F5AC will also print materials and purchase other supplies required for the events.