One of the most painful activities as a child is accompanying mom, dad or an older sister to the laundromat.
With only soap operas typically on television and little else to do that twiddle the thumbs or browse phone videos, kids quickly get bored at such places.
Now, Chelsea Community Connections (CCC) and Grace Muwina have combined efforts to put small, free children’s libraries at laundromats throughout the city.
So far, they’ve piloted the program at the Stop & Wash Mat on Broadway, next to Fine Mart, and it’s been a raging success.
“It is working really well so far because the first time we came here we filled up all the book shelves and two days later we came and it was empty,” said Cara Cogliano of CCC. “It means the kids are reading and using the books. Part of the idea is having access to books here at the laundromat, but if they can take it home, we want that too. We really just want access to books for kids. It’s a captive audience here, there’s not much to do, and we thought we should meet the kids where they’re at.”
Muwina has spearheaded the effort as part of a project for her class at TND’s Parent Leadership Program.
“I wanted this program to reach the kids where they are all the time, and give them access to books to read,” said Muwina. “It’s also a way to cut down on screen time as well. When kids are in the laundromat, they are constantly looking at videos on the phone. If this can get them off the phone for a half hour and help them to read a book instead, that can make a bid difference over time.”
This past Monday, at the Stop & Wash, little Emelia Nieto was busy reading a flip book as her mom folded clothes. The little girl was delighted when she learned she could take the book home, and that she could choose one as well for her baby sister.
Cogliano said all of the books are donated to CCC, so the effort is really cost-free. The only cost is the time of volunteers to return to the laundromat and fill up the book cases twice a week with new books.
The novel way of promoting reading is something both women hope will catch on at the many other laundromats in Chelsea. So far, Stop & Wash was the first to agree to the program.
Cogliano and Muwina said they hope that other volunteers will pick up the momentum and begin placing other children’s libraries in other laundromats.
“It’s not an original idea, but the ability for other people to pick up the project and do it elsewhere is tremendous,” she said.