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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Sharing Our Stories: Niccolo

“Sometimes, we tell a single story about laundromats and the families that use them,” says Niccolo Roditti, Wash & Learn Durham storytime leader. But on Monday, Niccolo had an experience with two families that dispelled a common narrative that says low-income families don’t read to their kids.

When he arrived at The Wash House on Fayetteville Street, Niccolo was pleased to see a father and daughter he hadn’t met before. He introduced himself to them, inviting the five-year-old kindergartner to take a break from the movie she was watching on Dad’s phone and join him in reading and drawing. To Niccolo’s delight, both daughter and Dad joined him.

It quickly became clear that Dad was not new to working with his daughter on reading. As Niccolo and the girl read together, Dad asked her questions and mirrored the dialogic reading strategies Niccolo was using. As it turned out, the daughter was already an excellent and eager reader — a new kindergartner, she could read the title of the book “I Love Myself” with just a little help. The words “I” and “love” came easily, and she quickly sounded out “myself” by breaking it into two words she already knew: “my” and “self.” Chatting with Dad, Niccolo learned that he works at home and takes advantage of the opportunity to read with both of his daughters frequently. Then, Niccolo learned she was an excellent speller, too! When Niccolo invited her to choose books from the bookshelf, she stopped by the magnet board and spelled out, “I love you Dad” with the magnets.

At that point, a second new family arrived: a mom with a kindergarten-aged boy and a one-year-old girl. It quickly became clear that both of these children, too, had excellent verbal skills, and Mom shared that they have lots of books at home and she reads to them all the time. While all the kids enjoyed storytime, Dad went next door to the convenience store and bought snacks for everyone, which they all shared while they read and drew and worked on literacy activities.

“This one-hour storytime not only solidified what the parents are already doing at home,” explained Niccolo, “but it also created a small community group right there in the laundromat.” One of the really important goals of Wash & Learn is parent engagement — and Monday’s storytime proved how valuable it is for this program to provide an opportunity for parents who are already very engaged to connect with each other and with Niccolo. Despite the common narrative about families who use laundromats, “every family is different, and you never know what to expect when you walk in each day,” explains Niccolo. “Wash & Learn is definitely not one-size-fits-all.”


Want to help us grow programs like Wash & Learn so all families can have access to resources and community groups like this one? Make a year-end donation now and help us support eager young readers and their families!



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