Press & News |

Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, the LaundryCares Foundation, and Laundry Literacy Coalition partners revealed effectiveness of laundromat-based literacy programs and renewed commitment to promote early learning

Education & Health Equity | 26 Minute Read

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2020 

Contact: [email protected]



Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, the LaundryCares Foundation, and Laundry Literacy Coalition partners revealed effectiveness of laundromat-based literacy programs and renewed commitment to promote early learning 


President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton brought together more than 870 leaders in education, business, and philanthropy to discuss cross-sector efforts to address the impact of COVID-19 on early learning at virtual 2020 LaundryCares Literacy Summit. 


OAKBROOK TERRACE, IL – This week at the 3rd annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit, the Clinton Foundation’s early childhood initiative, Too Small to Fail, the LaundryCares Foundation, and other Laundry Literacy Coalition partners renewed commitments to promote early learning and create literacy-rich environments in everyday spaces, such as laundromats, for children and their families. This year’s event focused on exploring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on early learning, and actions that business owners and community leaders can take to support parents and children in under-resourced communities. 


President Bill Clinton kicked off the event with a keynote and conversation with Wes Moore, CEO, Robin Hood Foundation; and Chelsea Clinton also served as a keynote speaker and presented the first-ever LaundryCares Achievement Awards to recognize outstanding service and exemplary best practices for laundromat owners, early literacy providers, and partnerships. The three award recipients included: 


  • Outstanding Achievement in Laundry Ownership Award: Jane Wolfe, Owner of Wash World in New Orleans
  • Outstanding Achievement in Early Literacy Promotion Award: Chicago Public Library STEAM Team
  • Outstanding Partnership: City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Office of Early Childhood Initiatives


Featured speakers also included Brian Wallace, CEO, Coin Laundry Association; Patti Miller, CEO, Too Small To Fail; Andrea Davis Pinkey, New York Times best-selling author; Cindy McCain, McCain Institute for International Leadership; Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President, Sesame Workshop; Dr. Susan Neuman, New York University; Ralph Smith, Managing Director, Campaign for Grade Level Reading; Mo Willems, New York Times best-selling children’s author, and more. 


New research findings from an evaluation conducted by Dr. Susan Neuman, NYU Professor of Literacy & Childhood Education, were presented to participants. The study evaluated the impact of integrating “Family Read, Play & Learn” spaces in ten laundromats across Chicago compared to ten laundromats without the spaces, as well as the effects of training outreach librarians from Chicago Public Library to lead regular family storytimes and literacy activities. Key study findings included:


  • Placing “Family Read, Play & Learn” spaces in laundromats had an overwhelmingly positive effect on children’s literacy-related activity during their visit. In total, throughout the course of the evaluation, researchers observed 1,378 instances of literacy-related activities in treatment sites compared to seven instances in the control sites.


  • Librarians played a powerful role in both children's and parents’ engagement in literacy-related activity. The average amount of time spent by children in the literacy space during Chicago public librarians’ visits was 47 minutes, significantly more than the 29 minutes on average that children spent alone in the space. 


  • More parents became involved in their children’s literacy-related activities during the librarians’ visits. One-fifth of parents (20 percent) joined in for at least a portion of the librarian’s story hours with their children. This is a marked increase from the 8 percent of parents who engaged in the literacy spaces in the first phase of the study before librarian involvement.


  • Children remained engaged in the literacy-related spaces throughout the study period. Children’s time spent on reading books grew throughout the period, increasing from more than 16 minutes to more than 21 minutes, indicating that these activities were self-sustaining.


Full evaluation findings can be found here. 


Too Small to Fail and the LaundryCares Foundation will continue to test new approaches and refine strategies to increase caregiver-child engagement. With support from the William Penn Foundation, partners will create and test additional playful, literacy-rich elements and experiences for children and families in three Philadelphia laundromats. Results from this study will further inform the organizations’ future efforts to engage families in laundromats.


Throughout the Summit, participants were also encouraged to submit action plans on how they will take steps to support children and families in laundromats in their communities. Laundromat owners pledged to integrate “Family Read, Play & Learn” spaces in their stores, librarians, and educators plan to launch laundromat outreach pilot programs, and community leaders will create literacy-rich spaces in everyday spaces using signage and tools to distribute early learning resources to parents and caregivers. 


By conclusion of the event, nearly 40 new action plans were made by participants at the Summit. Two conference participants who submitted action plans were also selected to receive a free large-sized “Family Read, Play & Learn” kit—generously donated by Lakeshore Learning Materials. 


“LaundryCares Foundation would like to thank all of the participants, speakers, sponsors, and partners who made our third LaundryCares Literacy Summit such an incredible success,” added Brian Wallace, CEO of Coin Laundry Association.  “This event demonstrates the potential that neighborhood businesses like ours have to directly impact the communities we serve.  Laundromat owners are now seeing proof that making literacy-rich spaces and books available at their stores will help children reach their potential.  We are excited to scale our ‘Family Read, Play, & Learn’ spaces to hundreds more laundromats across the country as part of our mission to meet families where they are with the resources they need most. This powerful vision is one we share with Too Small to Fail and all of our partners in the Laundry Literacy Coalition.”


“We know that now, even more than ever, it is critical to reach families with resources to support early learning and brain development. The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to exacerbate learning gaps, making it even more challenging for many children to show up to school prepared to learn,” said Jane Park, director of Too Small to Fail. “Too Small to Fail is proud to partner with the LaundryCares Foundation to convene a diverse coalition of laundromat owners, business leaders, librarians, community leaders, and more—all dedicated to increasing access to high-quality spaces and materials to help young children learn and thrive.”


Proven impact of literacy-rich spaces in laundromats

Research shows that nearly 60% of American children enter kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language and reading skills. Inequalities in income create additional structural challenges for children and families; research shows that, on average, children from lower-income families hear millions fewer words than their higher-income counterparts. But simple, everyday interactions with young children from birth – like talking, reading, and singing – can build their vocabularies, prepare them for school, and lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning. The first three years of life are the most critical for vocabulary development because the brain is best able to absorb language during this period. 

After the inaugural LaundryCares Literacy Summit in 2018, the LaundryCares Foundation and Too Small to Fail first developed “Family Read, Play & Learn” spaces to create literacy-rich early learning spaces inside laundromats and evaluated the impact of these spaces on children’s early literacy development and parent-child interactions. Evaluation findings from a pilot study found that children engaged in 30 times more literacy-rich activities in laundromats with these “Family Read, Play & Learn Spaces” than those without these spaces. 


“Family Read & Play Spaces” are playful, literacy-rich areas to help prompt language-rich activities like talking, reading, singing, writing, and playing among young children and their parents/caregivers. These spaces include a sofa, bookshelf filled with high-quality children’s books, puppets, crayons, in-store signage for parents, an alphabet rug, blocks, magnetic letters, and family tip sheets.


To date, nearly 100 laundromat owners have installed the “Family Read, Play & Learn” spaces in their laundromats. The LaundryCares Foundation and Too Small to Fail aim to install these spaces in 600 laundromats across the country by the end of 2021. 


This work has been covered extensively by national and local news organizations across the country – including PBS Newshour, Romper, Chicago Tribune, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Huffington Post, Spectrum News NY1, and many more. 




About the LaundryCares Foundation

The LaundryCares Foundation is dedicated to helping laundromat owners provide services through their stores such as Free Laundry & Literacy Days and childhood literacy resources to families in underserved communities. Visit us at For additional information, please contact Dan Naumann at (630) 953-7920 or at [email protected].


About Too Small to Fail

Too Small to Fail, the early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation, promotes early brain and language development by supporting parents and caregivers with tools to talk, read, and sing with their young children from birth. Today, almost 60 percent of children in the United States start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language and reading skills. Through partnerships with pediatricians, hospitals, faith-based leaders, community-based organizations, businesses, entertainment industry leaders, and others, Too Small to Fail is meeting parents where they are to help them prepare their children for success in school and beyond. Whether at the pediatrician's office or the playground, Too Small to Fail aims to make small moments big by creating opportunities for meaningful interactions anytime, anywhere. Learn more at


If you would rather not receive future communications from Clinton Foundation, let us know by clicking here.
Clinton Foundation, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 United States