BOISE, Idaho — When it comes to literacy in young kids, the pandemic has caused some students to fall behind, which is why the Caldwell Public Library is getting creative in finding ways for kids to learn when they aren’t at school, or at home.
"We know that some are going to walk out the door but for the most part, we hope they stay in place,” said Stephanie Bailey-White, Idaho State Librarian.
Bailey-White said the Caldwell Public Library has been participating in a pilot program that places a kid’s corner filled with books in select laundromats throughout Idaho. She said most people spend around two to two and a half hours of their time at a laundromat, many bring their children with them.
"Normally, I come in on Thursday mornings and there's not a whole lot of families are here because kids are at school. But occasionally, if I come in on a Saturday then there's a lot of families,” said Priscilla Crosslet, who frequents the Caldwell laundromat Get the Funk Out.
Dozens of books at the laundromat have greeted many families and children in the past three months. The program called Laundromat Literacy plans to grow.
"During COVID there has been a marked decrease in literacy and so we are hoping to get those numbers back up where Idaho typically has some of the highest per capita library use for families and circulation of children's materials, so we are hoping to get those numbers back where they were,” Bailey-White said.
According to Bailey-White, through research, she found that if children are not reading at grade level by the end of first grade, there is a one in eight chance that they won’t catch up to their peers without costly direct intervention.
“It’s just reaching those hard-to-reach families who may not have grown up using a library and sharing that libraries are for everybody,” Bailey-White said.
For Priscilla Crossley, a grandmother and bus driver in the Valley View School District, she doesn't plan to change laundromat locations anytime soon because of the book selection for her grandchildren.
"I bring my grandkids here when I take care of them and the oldest loves the books,” Crossley said. "I think it keeps kids interested in learning whether they realize it or not, I think books are a great idea, especially in a laundromat, kids get bored."
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