Larry Sawyer and Debra McDowall at the grand opening of the new Read Play Learn space at JJ’s Laundromat in Appleton.
“Can we do this here?” That’s the question Colleen Holz had when she heard about laundromats around the country designing literacy spaces for kids. She reached out to Lance Nevins, the owner at JJ’s Laundromat.
“I had heard of laundromat literacy spaces and how the space helps parents engage in reading and other literacy-rich interactions with their children during laundry time,” says Holz, volunteer coordinator & regional coordinator for Reach Out and Read Partners-Fox Cities and volunteer coordinator for the Appleton Public Library. “Lance had already heard about the program and loved the idea of families engaging in fun safe activities that support school readiness while they’re waiting for their laundry to finish.”
On Tuesday, the laundromat became the first in the Fox Valley to open its Read Play Learn space, modeled by the Laundry Cares Foundation, which provides materials at laundromats to support children’s early brain and language development. The space includes a comfortable seating area, high-quality books, toys and other materials designed to help parents engage in literacy-rich interactions with their children during laundry time.
Support for the supplies came from a generous grant from the Sawyer Family Fund within the Community Foundation. Grand Chute couple Larry Sawyer and Debra McDowall created their fund in 2003 to help strengthen the Fox Valley for the next generation. Their donor advised endowment fund benefits their many charitable interests in organizations supporting the arts, environment, and especially education opportunities for young people.
“The generous donation from the Sawyer Family Fund made it possible for JJ’s to purchase the Read Play Learn space kit and also provides for supplies needed for activities that Appleton Public Library will offer, along with some support from Building for Kids,” says Holz.
Similar learning spaces have been opened in laundromats across the nation. An independent evaluation found that placing “Family Read, Play & Learn” spaces in laundromats significantly enhanced children’s access to books and time spent on activities that support school readiness such as talking, reading, writing, singing and playing.
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