How the Chicago Public Library Is Bringing Story Time to the Laundromat

iStock.com/SbytovaMN
iStock.com/SbytovaMN

Once a week, several of the self-service laundromats in underserved areas of Chicago are converted into makeshift libraries where children can read or listen to stories, sing songs, and play educational games. In a city where more than 60 percent of low-income households don’t own any children’s books, the “Laundromat Story Time” program is filling a void, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Ever since the Chicago Public Library launched the program in March 2018, it has become a routine in many families’ lives. It has also proven helpful to parents, who receive tips from librarians on how to replicate these reading habits at home and instill a love of reading in their children. One recent study revealed that people who grow up with books at home tend to have better reading comprehension skills as well as better mathematical and digital communication skills later in life.

But why hold story hour at a laundromat instead of a library, or perhaps at a coffee shop? Becca Ruidl, who runs the Laundromat Story Time program, told U.S. News & World Report the idea is to make the program as convenient and accessible as possible. Since everyone needs clean clothes, and kids often join their parents on jaunts to the nearest laundromat, it seemed like a smart place to start.

Libraries Without Borders, which co-sponsored the Chicago program along with the LaundryCares Foundation, has held similar “Wash and Learn” programs in other cities. Pop-up libraries have appeared at laundromats in New York and Detroit as well as in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and St. Paul, Minnesota.

“One thing that makes laundromats so unique is that you have a captive audience,” Adam Echelman of Libraries Without Borders told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when a laundromat program was hosted in the city last June. "We’re meeting families where they are. Instead of asking you to come to the library, we’re bringing these opportunities directly to you.”

[h/t U.S. News & World Report]

JK Rowling Almost Killed Off Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter Series

Jaap Buitendijk, © 2011 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. HARRY POTTER PUBLISHING RIGHTS © J.K.R.
Jaap Buitendijk, © 2011 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. HARRY POTTER PUBLISHING RIGHTS © J.K.R.

Author J.K. Rowling “seriously” considered killing off one of the core characters in the Harry Potter series, and the reason why is much more sinister than you might think. Rowling once admitted that she almost killed off Ron Weasley “out of sheer spite.”

Rowling wasn’t shy about killing off some beloved characters over the years, including headmaster Albus Dumbledore and loyal house-elf Dobby, but she never considered killing off one-third of the main gang of Harry, Ron, and Hermione until she "wasn’t in a very happy place," about halfway through penning the series.

Daniel Radcliffe interviewed Rowling as a special feature for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 DVD, and during the course of their conversation the author revealed that Ron had a vicious wand pointed at his neck for a little while. 

"Funnily enough, I planned from the start that none of them would die. Then midway through, which I think is a reflection of the fact that I wasn't in a very happy place, I started thinking I might polish one of them off. Out of sheer spite,” Rowling said. “But I think in my absolute heart of heart of hearts, although I did seriously consider killing Ron, [I wouldn't have done it].

"It's a real relief to be able to talk about it all," the author added.

Given the story-altering effect Ron’s death would’ve had on both Hermione and Harry, we’re glad Rowling found it in her heart to let the red-haired wizard live.

Can You Tell an Author’s Identity By Looking at Punctuation Alone? A Study Just Found Out.

iStock.com/RyersonClark
iStock.com/RyersonClark

In 2016, neuroscientist Adam J Calhoun wondered what his favorite books would look like if he removed the words and left nothing but the punctuation. The result was a stunning—and surprisingly beautiful—visual stream of commas, question marks, semicolons, em-dashes, and periods.

Recently, Calhoun’s inquiry piqued the interest of researchers in the United Kingdom, who wondered if it was possible to identify an author from his or her punctuation alone.

For decades, linguists have been able to use the quirks of written texts to pinpoint the author. The process, called stylometric analysis or stylometry, has dozens of legal and academic applications, helping researchers authenticate anonymous works of literature and even nab criminals like the Unabomber. But it usually focuses on an author's word choices and grammar or the length of his or her sentences. Until now, punctuation has been largely ignored.

But according to a recent paper led by Alexandra N. M. Darmon of the Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, an author’s use of punctuation can be extremely revealing. Darmon’s team assembled nearly 15,000 documents from 651 different authors and “de-worded” each text. “Is it possible to distinguish literary genres based on their punctuation sequences?” the researchers asked. “Do the punctuation styles of authors evolve over time?”

Apparently, yes. The researchers crafted mathematical formulas that could identify individual authors with 72 percent accuracy. Their ability to detect a specific genre—from horror to philosophy to detective fiction—was accurate more than half the time, clocking in at a 65 percent success rate.

The results, published on the preprint server SocArXiv, also revealed how punctuation style has evolved. The researchers found that “the use of quotation marks and periods has increased over time (at least in our [sample]) but that the use of commas has decreased over time. Less noticeably, the use of semicolons has also decreased over time.”

You probably don’t need to develop a powerful algorithm to figure that last bit out—you just have to crack open something by Dickens.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER