Wash, read, repeat: Raising A Reader turns Cajun Cleaners laundromat into Colorado’s first libromat
The interior of Cajun Cleaners is a little more literary following a display built by Raising A Reader Aspen to Parachute and Vroom, an early-learning program.
The laundromat became Colorado’s first “libromat” Dec. 1, according to Raising A Reader. Across from the tumbling socks and shirts is a new book stand, a mirror and QR codes that lead to Vroom’s brain-building activities. It’s an effort to promote youth literacy out in the open, where parents and children may have some time to sit down and read a book or play an educational game while their clothes get clean.
“It makes sense to do it in a laundromat, because we have a lot of families there throughout the week and oftentimes the whole family is there, the kids are there,” Cajun Cleaners owner Dendy Heisel said. “The ultimate goal is to have kids come to school ready to learn. If we can get kids learning early at home, then they have a fighting chance.”
Heisel said research shows that kids who aren’t reading up to their grade level by grade three have a slim chance of catching up before graduation.
Raising A Reader and Vroom hosted an opening ceremony, cordoning off the corner of the laundromat that used to serve as a lounge. As customers folded their sheets and looked on curiously, a Raising A Reader representative held storytime for some children in attendance.
The revitalized space houses some children’s books to accompany the toys that were already there. The floor-to-ceiling mirror is decorated with outlines of high-level jobs, like a doctor and a scientist.
Bubbles attached to the mirror display literacy tips in both English and Spanish and QR codes, leading to the Vroom app, which give access to activities that are designed to promote brain growth.
Similar installations are spread out across the country and Colorado but did not exist in Glenwood Springs previously.
“It basically promotes doing activities, like laundry, but integrating your kids so they can do that together,” Vroom Community Engagement Manager Denisse Diaz Orellana said. “When you’re a parent and you’re busy, you’re thinking about when you can make time to be with your child and do educational activities with them. This basically puts it in your hands by downloading the app and sending activities directly to your phone.”
Heisel said that the laundromat offers free WiFi for customers.
Raising A Reader said the literacy resources made Cajun Cleaners the first “libromat” in the state and the organization is seeking similar partnerships across the community.
“My hope is that our relationship with Vroom will grow throughout the valley,” Raising A Reader Executive Director Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo said. “I don’t know if it will be in another laundromat or another organization where we can support families who need extra resources in their lives, particularly in helping their children develop into successful learners when they get to school and build healthy brains.”
Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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