Laundromats are playing an unlikely role in the effort to shrink America’s literacy gap

Seven-year-old Emma McGee used to hate coming to the laundromat. It was boring, and seemed to take forever. In fact she would always ask—unsuccessfully—to stay home with her older brother, Aiden. But things have gotten more interesting since a play space appeared in the back corner of Lavanderia Express IV, a large laundromat nestled next to a family dollar store in the Bronx where Emma and her mother, Venus, come every week.

“My favorite thing to do is coloring,” explains Emma, “but my second favorite is reading.” At Lavanderia Express IV, Emma gets to do both. The laundromat is one of three New York City pilot sites of a Clinton Foundation-sponsored project to install family-friendly literacy spaces for kids under six into 600 laundromats across the US by 2020.

The average US family spends more than two hours a week at their neighborhood laundromat, and many bring their kids with them. That’s downtime that experts say could be put to better use, by turning laundromats into spaces where kids can learn and grow.

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