A group of local residents has started placing children’s books on bookshelves in laundromats around the county.
The Clinton County Laundromat Libraries is a county-wide project with a mission to get books into the hands and homes of children from Blanchester to Sabina to Wilmington and everywhere in-between.
The group is grateful that the owners of these laundromats said “yes” when they were approached about the idea — Anytime Laundry on South South Street in Wilmington; Anytime Laundry on Rombach in Wilmington; Scrubbing Bubbles in Blanchester; and Self-Service Laundry in Sabina.
In the beginning, Karen Long, former Wilmington City Schools educator, read about how laundromats in Milwaukee were creating library spaces in laundromats for children. She knew that we could do the same thing right here in Clinton County.
The project has grown to include team leaders at each laundromat and partnerships with people and organizations across the county.
In Wilmington, the leaders are Wilmington elementary teacher Marci (Murphy) Huelskamp and Elizabeth Huber. In Blanchester, it’s Theresa Jenkins. And in Sabina, it’s Brenda Woods. Other library champions include Dauna Armstrong, Karen Carter, and Eleanor Harris and her granddaughter, Tiara.
In addition, the project is supported and endorsed by all of the Clinton County librarians and staff.
You might be asking, “Why laundromats?”
“We know that exposure to print is an important predictor of reading readiness,” said Karen Long. “So we wanted to figure out ways to get books into the hands and homes of children. And we know that when people come to the laundromat, they generally spend at least an hour or more. Oftentimes, people bring their children or grandchildren with them.
”We know that while at the laundromat, children are often idle with nothing to do. So during that time, to keep the kids occupied with something positive, and to get books into the hands of children, we had the idea of putting books in these spaces.”
The laundromat libraries invite children to take books home with them as they leave the laundromat. Children are encouraged to read the books and create their own at home library spaces.
The books are free and have been donated by local families, libraries and schools. The Wilmington Order of the Eagles recently donated $200 to the project, and that money was used to purchase more books.
How to help
The group has created ways that community members can get involved. There are also drop-off locations in the community for locals to drop off donations of gently used and new children’s books — Art House, the Wilmington News Journal office, and the Sabina Public Library.
Churches, scouts and other groups are encouraged to host book drives and donate the collected books to the laundromat libraries project.
Long shared that while she was stocking the shelves recently in one of the laundromats, a man without children thanked her for the books. While he doesn’t read them, he appreciates that the books keep the kids busy and keeps them from running around the laundromat.
The group goes on to share their hopes and dreams for the project, “We hope that this project will expose parents and children to more literacy, more opportunities to engage in reading,” said Long. “More opportunities for children to have books in their hands, like the Imagination Library Project, initiated by Dolly Parton and adopted by Ohio.”
The Imagination Library Project is a book-gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income. To date, the project has put more than 150 million books in the hands of children around the world.
Here’s a link to information and the application for children of Clinton County to enroll in the program: https://imaginationlibrary.com/usa/affiliate/OHCLINTON/ .
Flyers with information about the program can be found in each of the laundromat libraries, as well as in all of the county public libraries
To find out more about this project and learn how you can get involved, you can find the Clinton County Laundromat Libraries on Facebook by that name. You can also email Karen Long at email@example.com .