Tag: literacy

Suds and Stories—Tackling Literacy at Laundromats

Laundromats across the country are taking on an unexpected cause—childhood literacy. Several organizations are connecting libraries to laundromats and holding free book-shares and storytimes for low-income neighborhoods.

The incentive is to boost literacy among children whose community libraries are defunct or overcrowded and under-resourced. Now children are learning the joy of reading somewhere their families frequent, without the added hurdle of library fines and fees.

These programs work through a myriad of methods, with some of them equipping parents to read to their children while waiting, hosting librarians for a book-reading, distributing and lending books, or even setting up Wi-Fi hotspots to relay educational content.

According to NYU Steinhardt Professor Susan B. Neuman, these spaces significantly increased the time kids spent on literacy activities that bolster school readiness. Her study found that on average, the children spent 47 minutes enthralled with books, drawing, writing, and singing songs.


Storytime at Bubbleland Laundromat. Image via Chicago Public Library


Notably, the parents expressed that they were patrons of the laundromat for its program, and their children looked forward to laundry day. Given that the ages between birth and five are crucial to brain development, these few hours can have a great impact on a child’s educational trajectory.

In another study on an NYC initiative, one disappointing finding was that while the children flocked to the reading spaces, the parents were not always actively engaged in the learning.

Family involvement is key to the program’s success. The study found, however, that with librarians added 30% of parents eventually participated; this speaks to the idea that more funding may raise effectiveness.

Among the many laundry laundromats that have spread across the country, a number are sponsored by the Laundry and Literacy Coalition (LLC)—a partnership between the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail (TSTF) and the Coin Laundry Association’s LaundryCares Foundation.

A woman chooses a book from a vending machine

An (Exhaustive) Beginner’s Guide to Book Vending Machines

Books are hardly the strangest thing human beings have ever put into a vending machine. Aside from our love of stories in all forms, that’s one thing all people generally have in common: we’re honestly pretty weird. One woman’s pregnancy cravings led to the invention of the cupcake vending machine, providing Mississippi, USA with twenty-four-hour cupcake access and making the rest of us wonder why you’d need to be pregnant to want junk food at four in the morning. China and Japan both offer live crab vending machines, complete with vinegar and ginger tea for an optimal on-the-go-meal. (Being from a country where live crabs aren’t commonly eaten, I DID initially wonder whether or not you could use the live crabs to exact revenge on any rude pedestrians or public transit passengers.) Then there’s the infamous used schoolgirl underwear vending machine—though Japan technically made these illegal in 1993, some continue to exist.

And what are we supposed to gather from this? That the world is a stranger place than even we, as strange people, can imagine? Sure, but also this—books may not be the strangest thing we’ve ever sold via self-service kiosk in a public place, but they’re definitely the coolest. Let’s delve into the many iterations of the book vending machine.

1. Historic Book Vending Machines

Some inventions are pretty bad—consider the pet-petter, an allegedly-convenient invention that condemns you to a reality in which you’ll “never touch your pets again!” Others, though, are pretty badass. Back in 1822, members of the public usually were forbidden from buying seditious books (and probably plenty of other things, like women wearing pants or enjoying being alive). English bookseller Richard Carlile didn’t want to be thrown in jail for distributing banned books, but there was one major problem: he really, really wanted to distribute banned books. His plan? Deposit censored material into self-service machines and give the people what they want. Of course, Carlile got exactly the opposite of what he wanted—a criminal conviction.


'Penguincubator' book vending machine

Image Via Mental Floss


In 1937, a more effective but less exciting book vending machine became accessible in the UK: the Penguincubator. The brainchild of Allen Lane, founder of Penguin Books, the Penguincubator came into being when Lane couldn’t find a book he wanted to purchase while waiting in a train station. While it’s possible that only one machine ever actually existed, it’s certain that most of us would have been first in line. Alas, book vending machines are still relatively uncommon—but so are people who take their socks off on airplanes, and yet, they’re still f*cking everywhere.



Let’s agree that books are healthier and more enjoyable than king-sized sodas. What pleasure the latter provides tend to be short-lived—which is what anxious parents suspect their kids might be if they have even hypothetical access to a Pepsi. Of course, healthy living is important even when it isn’t fun for the hyperactive, slightly rabid kiddos riding the wave of their first sugar highs. But reading is fun, and what could be healthier than kids finding that out for themselves—before their college lit classes make them read Moby Dick?


One elementary school's book vending machine



One Utah elementary school has recently opened the state’s first book vending machine, among the first handful of these machines. Yes, handful. There are currently fewer than five of these schoolyard machines: Umatilla Elementary School in Umatilla, FL and Arthur O. Eve School 61 in Buffalo, NY were the first two. Granger Elementary in West Valley City, UT has decided to encourage even healthier behavior (no, the vending machine doesn’t also dish out spinach and lectures on the value of hand-washing to these tiny human booger-farms). Instead of money, the machine will accept tokens that teachers can give to students for their work and conduct in the classroom. By collecting enough of these, students can receive the greatest gift of all—the early understanding that a book is a reward, not a punishment.


3. Repurposed Cigarette Machines

The most common vending machines dispense food and drink; cigarette vending machines, while once common, are now illegal in many countries due to changing attitudes around public health. Those that still exist either use age verification technology or are only present in establishments like bars or clubs, which bar underage people from entry. Many of these machines are now defunct, but they’re still there—and that’s led many to look for different uses. North Carolina based artist Clark Whittington began the Art-o-Mat project in 1997, replacing cigarettes with small art pieces.



Repurposed cigarette vending machine

Image Via Treehugger.com


German publishing company Hamburger Automatenverlag has repurposed some cigarette vending machines to sell books instead of tobacco products. For just €4—less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes—you could make a different decision and change your story. Will it make you feel better? In the long run, probably. But we all know books are more than capable of causing short-term emotional despair.


Some readers may recognize this concept because of Barnes & Noble (while others may be familiar because of awkward romantic encounters). Certain Barnes & Noble locations wrap novels in paper and identify them only with a brief description—genre, setting, time period, and any other notable traits. Picture these ‘notable traits’ as highly-specific Netflix categories, like ‘steamy independent movies based on books’ or ‘stunts & general mayhem.’ Though these books are generally cheaper, you take a risk when purchasing one of these books. Maybe you’ll hate it. The opposite is equally plausible: maybe you’ve even read it before! But you risk disappointment when purchasing any book, especially if you’re like me (read: insanely picky, willing to shout about poorly-realized character arcs at all times). It’s just that the reward of a life-altering story is worth so much more than the money spent.


The Monkey's Paw bookstore (Toronto, ON) features randomized book vending machine

Image Via NPR


The Monkey’s Paw bookstore in Toronto is the proud home of the first randomized book vending machine. Stephen Fowler, the store’s owner, originally thought that a store employee might stand inside the machine and physically drop the book down to the customer. The bookstore employee, presumably, thought about quitting on the spot. With a little common sense, Fowler saw the line between ‘stroke of genius’ and ‘stroking out.’ Now, the machine is made out of a metal locker to suit the store’s vintage aesthetic. Notice how lockers aren’t transparent? For $2, customers get the pleasure of a complete surprise.

The front of the machine reads: “collect all 112 million titles.” It could be a joke—but it could be a challenge.


Featured Image Via Art4d.com

the onion

7 Literature-Related Satire Articles to Make You Cackle

I don’t know about you, but I love satire! I especially love reading articles à la Reductress or The Onion that are so, intensely relatable, dark, funny, and unreal.


It’s healthy to laugh at yourself and the people you respect and love (also the people you don’t respect or love, too, because political satire has been on-point lately, let’s be real here). And, if you happen to be someone who has yet to veer deep into the depths of satire domain, I highly recommend it. It’s just fun, cathartic, and can definitely help lighten your mood. 


So, kick off your heels, lean your seat back, stare intently into your computer screen, and enjoy these seven incredibly perfect satirical articles centered around literature!


Goody Introduces New Line Of Governess Hairbrushes For Raking Across The Scalps Of Insolent Little Girls – The Onion



Image via The Onion


The new reinforced handles can withstand being drawn roughly through the knotted hair of a horrid, filthy creature hundreds of times, and the extra-coarse bristles will quickly dislodge any grass or other debris that has become entangled due to unladylike frolicking in the meadow beyond the wall.


Amazing: This Charity Teaches Illiterate Adults About The Intricacies Of The New York Literary Scene – Clickhole



Image via Clickhole


And the learning goes beyond the classroom: Well Read also offers field trips to the Men’s Wearhouse where Tom Wolfe bought his iconic white suit. Who says adult education can’t be a little fun?


Tattoos That Seem Edgy Until You Realize They’re Harry Potter References – Reductress



Image via Reductress

Next time you spot a tat on a burly dude that says, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” don’t immediately assume it’s a Ramones lyric and this guy is about to kiss you hard then whisk you away on his motorcycle. In reality, he spent his childhood reading the Harry Potter series in which a magical map can only be opened if you say these words out loud while tapping your wand delicately on the parchment.


E3 Organizers Cancel Convention After Discovering Immersive Power Of Literature – The Onion


The Onion

Image via The Onion


 At press time, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony issued a joint press statement confirming they had canceled all future game development and would instead issue leather-bound editions of the world’s literary classics.


How to Avoid Catcallers by Shouting ‘Chim Chim Cheree! Are You Me New Dad? – Reductress



Image via Reductress


Would-be catcallers will refrain from saying sexual, invasive comments, and instead say, “Is she a chimney sweep? Is she a Dickensian orphan? Is she in community theater?” Be sure to bring work shoes to change into later!


Exonerated: This Convicted Murderer Was Released From Prison After 20 Years When An Online Quiz Sorted Him Into Gryffindor – Clickhole



Image via Clickhole


“Gryffindor is the home of the best and bravest of the wizarding world, and the fact that Mr. Anderson was assigned to this house by an online quiz makes it clear that he couldn’t possibly have committed an act as terrible as murder,” said Judge Sonia Sandhu, announcing her decision to overturn Walter’s guilty verdict from 1998.


My Mom Keeps Trying to Marry Me Off to a Mean Lord – Reductress



Image via Reductress


I used to love visiting my parent’s house in Racine, Wisconsin. Now, whenever I’m visiting, their house is full of evil, conniving lords who want to insult my piano playing or say that I’m “rather opinionated for someone so plain-looking”. Ugh, I can’t stand having to endure high tea with mean-ass lord after mean-ass lord! Does my mom even understand me at all?


Now, go forth and enjoy your weekend, you wild buncha bookworms!






Featured Image Via The Onion

Truesdell's Book Club

The Most Popular Club in This School Is a Book Club for Fifth-Grade Boys

Truesdell Education Campus can’t keep its most popular books stocked. Boys crowd the library before the morning bell, students read in class instead of paying attention to their teachers. And it’s all because of a book club. 


With the help of one of their administrators, ten fifth-grade boys started a book club at the school in Washington, D.C.’s Brightwood neighborhood, and it’s quickly become the most popular club on campus. The school staff struggles to keep up with their students’ book demand.


“The books that we read here, we can relate to,” said 11-year-old Devon Wesley. The book club has allowed Devon and other students to find black characters—characters who look like them.


The club began when a fifth-grader complained about his less-than-stellar results on a citywide English exam. He felt the grade he received did not reflect his reading abilities. His principal, Mary Ann Stinson, gave him a book and told him to start reading. The book was Bad Boy: A Memoir, by Walter Dean Myers. 


Bad Boy, a memoir

Image Via Amazon


Michael Redmond, the assistant principal, saw the interaction and suggested a few boys read the book together. They quickly became enthralled by the book, which focused on Myers’ childhood in Harlem. By the end of the day, other students spotted the trio with the book and asked Redmond if there were any additional copies. There weren’t, so he ordered more copies and helped his students organize an all-male book club, which accepted the first ten students who were interested in extra reading and discussions outside of school hours.


Redmond, whose dissertation focused on the educational advancement of minority boys, said he remembered being aware that people didn’t expect boys of color to be readers. He wanted to destroy that stereotype for his students. 


“What a beautiful thing, for teachers to be able to see boys who look like this be so into reading,” Redmond said. “We did not imagine that kids would be this serious about reading and about doing something that we didn’t ask them to do.”


Redmond and the boys meet at 8:15am once or twice a week and use the book to begin conversations about their own experiences with race, identity, and adolescence. At last week’s book club, Redmond led the boys in a discussion about a specific line in Bad Boy, where the protagonist says, “I prefer not to be seen as black,” because he didn’t want his accomplishments to be seen as “Negro accomplishments.”


“He wrote that line not because he was ashamed of being black, but why?” asked Redmond.


“Because you can be smart, not because you’re black, but because you’re smart, period,” said 10-year-old Kemari Starks, an aspiring zoologist who finished the 200 page book in just two days.


The club is moving onto its second book, Monster, another Myers novel, this time about a teenager on trial for murder. Most of the boys said they’ve already finished the book. “In our classes, there are way less interesting books, and these books are way more interesting. These books are about people.”


The book club is already changing the reading culture around campus, and Steve Aupperle, Truesdell’s vice principal in charge of literacy, suspects it’s boosting the students’ reading levels. The book club reads books intended for seventh and eighth graders.


“They are now seeing that reading is amazing and, through reading, you can find people to relate to,” Aupperle said. “That’s what reading is.”


“It’s a blessing to be in this predicament, to have kids who are becoming ravenous readers,” Redmond said. “We’re disrupting the notion of what public education can be and what little black boys can do and be.”


Featured Image Via The Washington Post.