Family Pride Laundry in Springfield has a new spin for its customers: a children's library.
The idea of turning a corner of the laundromat into a place where youngsters can read originated with Amanda Brown, a 20-year-old student at University of Illinois Springfield.
"I was just really attracted to it because I love working with kids. And I thought this would be a perfect way to be able to help the community," said Brown, who is studying elementary education and communications.
Brown, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Springfield-Downtown, received financial support from the service group to buy a bookcase and other amenities. She also is contributing a collection of books from her own childhood and receiving other literary donations from a variety of sources.
"Officially, they are supposed to just read the books there," she said. "But we know that some kids are going to fall so in love with a book that they will take it home with them, and that is OK."
Ryan Flynn, whose family owns the Family Pride at 1959 W. Monroe St. and three other laundries in Sangamon County, said he would like to see this project expand to other laundromats.
"It just gives kids something to do because there really isn't much for them at a laundromat," he said. "You can get a bouncy ball out of a game machine and then bounce it all through the laundry. But other than that, there's not much to offer. ... It should be a good resource for the kids to learn something."
Brown said the demographics of families using laundromats dovetail nicely with those who would most benefit from the library. Lower-income and working-class families often lack the money to purchase children's books.
"The goal is to provide opportunities for kids to read, practice and improve their reading skills," said Tom Bazan, past president of the downtown Kiwanis Club "We want to cultivate the joy of reading in these kids by providing them with this opportunity.
"And maybe they will see a book that they really like, and then they will begin to fall in love with reading. And mom and dad can come alongside and help them. ... We want to regularly restock books for two reasons. No. 1, it's so that we can keep a good rotation so that the same books are not there week after week. Also, we recognize that the kids are going to love the books so much, they are going to want to take them home."
Brown launched the library Nov. 6 and said she views it as just a first step.
"We want to reach as many children as we can," she said. "Some children aren't old enough to go to school where they can check out books. So, this is a great place for them to be exposed to books. And it's a great place for caretakers to relax and spend that extra time with the children and read to them. Early reading is so important for young children. And it really sets them up for future academic success."
Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at email@example.com.