March 21, 2019
Mar 21

Chelsea Clinton, the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, and Laundry Literacy Coalition partners expand early literacy program in Chicago, announce new research findings on effectiveness of laundromat literacy programs

New York, New York
Press Release

For Immediate Release: March 21, 2019
Contact: [email protected]

Chelsea Clinton, the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, and Laundry Literacy Coalition partners expand early literacy program in Chicago, announce new research findings on effectiveness of laundromat literacy programs

Chicago, Ill. – Yesterday, as part of the Clinton Foundation’s work on early learning through its Too Small to Fail initiative, Clinton Foundation vice chair Chelsea Clinton met with local families and participants at the second annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit. During a visit to a Chicago laundromat, Chelsea Clinton announced the expansion of laundromat-based early literacy programs in the city and shared the results of a new evaluation on their effectiveness.

“We know the first five years of a child’s life are crucial for early literacy and brain development,” said Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation. “I’m so proud that through the work of Too Small to Fail and the Laundry Literacy Coalition we are meeting families where they are – providing parents, grandparents, and caregivers with critical resources to set children up for success later in life.”

The LaundryCares Literacy Summit was hosted by Laundry Literacy Coalition partners – Too Small to Fail, the LaundryCares Foundation, and Libraries Without Borders — and brought together a diverse group of national early childhood and literacy organizations and foundations, and laundromat owners and manufacturers. These groups explored ways to work together to create playful learning spaces in laundromats across the country with the goal of providing families with tools and resources to support children’s early brain and language development.

Yesterday’s opening of a new “Family Read & Play Space” at local Chicago laundromat, “Wash Time,” included remarks and story time led by Chelsea Clinton, the Chicago Public Library, and’s Gen2Gen campaign. This visit also included a comprehensive tour of the facility and a reading of Too Small to Fail’s new children’s book “DJ’s Busy Day” released by Scholastic Inc. A total of 10 new “Family Read & Play Spaces” will open in Chicago this year. 

New Evaluation Finds Laundromat Literacy Program is Effective 

As part of the summit, Dr. Susan Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at New York University, presented the results of an evaluation on the effectiveness of “Family Read & Play Spaces” that were piloted in three laundromats across New York City.

Evaluation findings overwhelmingly showed that laundromats can serve as an important environment for early literacy development.

The findings revealed that:

  • The “Family Read & Play Space” significantly enhanced children’s time spent on literacy-rich activities that support school readiness (children were observed engaging in 30 times more literacy activities in laundromats that include the spaces compared to the laundromats that did not have these areas);

  • When the spaces were paired with librarians, children engaged in substantial and sustained literacy activities (the average stay per child was 47 minutes);

  • Parents expressed pride and delight as they observed their children’s literacy-related activities;

  • Parents observed librarians modeling a rich array of literacy activities and expressed their enthusiasm for the literacy spaces and librarians’ visits;

  • Customers overwhelmingly expressed their enthusiasm for the literacy space and said they chose to come to that specific laundromat because of it; and    

  • Laundromat owners and staff also expressed unanimous praise for the literacy areas.

Full evaluation findings can be found here.

New Commitments to Expand Early Literacy Promotion Efforts

The Laundry Literacy Coalition announced new commitments to expand efforts nationwide to transform neighborhood laundromats into playful, literacy-rich places for families, caregivers, and their children. 

Commitments include:

  • The LaundryCares Foundation will expand the “Family Read & Play Spaces” into 600 new locations by March 2020 (250 local laundromats have already committed to integrate these spaces into their stores);

  • The LaundryCares Foundation will host a minimum of 30 “Free Laundry & Literacy Days” within a year that will include free books and literacy resources, volunteers, and more;

  • The Coin Laundry Association will promote the “Family Read & Play Spaces” as a basic component of future laundromat designs by sharing sample layouts with laundry equipment manufacturers, distributors, and the Coin Laundry Association’s network of 5,000 retail, self-service laundries;

  • Too Small to Fail and’s Gen2Gen initiative are launching a new “Gen2Gen Laundromat Literacy Volunteer Guide” which provides strategies to recruit volunteers aged 50 and older and provide them with tips and resources to lead early literacy programming in laundromats; and

  • Too Small to Fail is committing to lead coalition efforts for more research on the role of laundromats in promoting early literacy. This research will be expanded into Chicago where they will be evaluating these “Family Read & Play Spaces” in 20 laundromats across the city – in partnership with the LaundryCares Foundation, Libraries Without Borders, and the Chicago Public Library.

Since 2015, Too Small to Fail, the LaundryCares Foundation, and Libraries Without Borders have launched several initiatives to deliver high-quality early literacy resources and outreach programs directly into local self-service laundromats to meet families where they are and support young children’s early brain and language development.

“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.



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


The LaundryCares Foundation is dedicated to helping laundromat owners provide services through their stores such as Free Laundry Days and Childhood Literacy Resources to families in underserved communities. Visit us at


Libraries Without Borders (LWB) works to ensure that regardless of their circumstances, people throughout the world can live with dignity and the opportunity to thrive through access to information, education and culture. More than a simple collection of books, a library is a tool that can be leveraged to fight instability and social inequality, allowing people to develop creative energies and build new livelihood skills. LWB focuses on building libraries and developing innovative tools, curating and creating content, and devising trainings that enable facilitators to share their expertise and bring libraries to life for people across the globe. LWB’s three main areas of intervention are: Humanitarian and post-conflict; Education and culture for all; and Social entrepreneurship. Visit us at