The little free library movement — with 75,000 registered locations in 88 different countries, including at least 50 in the greater Santa Barbara area — has a new outpost in town. This little free library, located at House of Laundry (310 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara), has a unique spin (pardon the pun): trying to get books in the hands of young children.
“Bringing books directly to children and families where they already are — doing their laundry — and making it as easy as possible for busy working parents and caregivers to read aloud to their children is a goal that really resonated with our book club,” says book club member Michelle Bednash, who painted and refurbished an old bookshelf she found at a thrift store.
“Some of my fondest memories with my own children are of reading aloud to them. As a mom, I know how precious that time is, and that it’s never too early to read to children. As an educator, and a member of the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, I know that reading proficiency by 3rd grade is one of the most important predictors of high school
graduation. According to CGLR statistics, 61% of low-income children do not have books at home, and 80% of low-income children do not read at grade level by third grade. I’ve become downright evangelical about getting books into the hands of children and families,” says book club member Charla Bregante.
When Bregante first proposed the project idea to her book club, fellow members were enthusiastic and eagerly populated the shelves with both new purchases and old treasures from their children’s bookshelves.
The owner of the House of Laundry was equally happy to offer up space, saying “the reason we started this is that moms always handed their cell phones to the kids, and I’d much rather see them read a book. The customers love it and it’s great. It really seems to be a success.”
Laundromats and libraries are a match made in heaven, and part of a national trend. A recent study of “Family Read & Play Spaces” by Dr. Susan Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at New York University, was presented as part of the LaundryCares Literacy Summit.
As reported by Planet Laundry, Neuman’s research “overwhelmingly showed that laundries can serve as an important environment for early literacy development.”
According to data from the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, “ Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.”
“I hope other book clubs will take up the challenge to create more little free libraries accessible to under-served children,” says Bregante.
In addition to helping other book clubs set up free libraries in laundromats, the club also accepts donations of children’s books for young readers. There is a particular need for bilingual (English and Spanish) books, which have overwhelmingly been the most popular ones at House of Laundry.
For more information or assistance for book clubs wanting to start a free library branch, please contact book club members Charla Bregante (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Leslie Dinaberg (Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com).