County of Marin - News Releases - Laundromats and Literacy

For Immediate Release
November 18, 2019

Laundromats Assist with Literacy, Literally

Business owner creates partnership with Marin County Free Library

San Rafael, CA – While your clothes churn and tumble at the self-service laundry business, you and your young kids can flip pages of a book as part of Marin County’s new Laundromat Literacy Project.

A mother reads a book to a young girl at the small library inside a laundromat.Norberta reads to her daughter Rosemeli at the Wash Tub Laundromat in Corte Madera.
The Marin County Free Library (MCFL) recently worked with local laundromat owner Michael Gralnick to create new spaces inside his businesses in Corte Madera and San Anselmo where people of all ages – but especially youngsters – can read, play and learn. MCFL has provided hundreds of books in English and Spanish, and laundromat customers are allowed to take the books home and return them later.

“We thought this was a fantastic idea for early-childhood literacy promotion in Marin County,” MCFL Director Sara Jones said. “We have focused on emphasizing the importance of reading and learning in the first five years of life. The down time families experience while doing laundry is a great time to read together. At some point, we hope we can just say, ‘Keep the book you borrowed.’ We want to help families expand their home libraries.”

The Laundromat Literacy Project is how at the Wash Tub Laundromat (512 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera) and Spee-Dee Wash (805 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo).

Gralnick purchased furnishings such as bookshelves, small tables and chairs, alphabet rugs, beanbags, colorful book bins, magnet boards with letters, wall-mounted flyer displays and bulletin boards. The flyer displays and bulletin boards are intended to announce library events, early literacy materials and other information that could be helpful to the laundromat customers. 

Gralnick said he was inspired by the nonprofit efforts Too Small to Fail (an initiative of the Clinton Foundation) and the Laundry Cares Foundation after realizing how many hours children spend every month waiting for their parents to handle the laundry.

“This has been really heartwarming,” Gralnick said. “In just the short few weeks since we put in the first set of books and magnetic letter boards, we have both received numerous words of thanks from parents and regularly see in the security cameras young kids both reading and working with letters on the letter boards, both alone and with parents. We hope we are helping parents turn laundry time into quality time with their children.”

“We could not agree more with Sara and the Marin County Free Library, and bravo to Mr. Gralnick!” said First 5 Marin Executive Director Amy Reisch. “Families do indeed spend hours in laundromats, and having books and activities available is an opportunity for some family time, language and literacy development and, perhaps most important – fun!  This is a perfect example of an innovative partnership for children.”

Although the program is just underway, the organizers are already looking to help it grow. Gralnick and MCFL are approaching other potential partners to explore ways for learning experiences to be expanded beyond the library books. MCFL is recruiting volunteers to restock and perform storytime readings at the laundromats (background checks will be required because the adults will be working with children). Some of the books were donated by Friends of the Marin County Free Library and others were purchased specifically for the project.

Jackie Foster of the Corte Madera Library said the project has been an excellent lesson in partnerships.

“It takes both passion and collaboration make an innovation project flourish,” she said. “Michael is committed to helping his customers and their children, and MCFL is dedicated to supporting children’s literacy. I am honored and excited to help organize a program that reaches a hardworking and underserved community.

Foster said thanks to Kerry Bacho at the Parent Services Project, the laundromats will have the first morning story time on Saturday, November 23.


Sara Jones
Marin County Free Library

3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6051
Email: Sara Jones
Library website