- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — It used to annoy Georgina Smith every time she drove by the Clean Rite Center laundry facility in one of Brooklyn’s tougher neighborhoods. She would look inside and see children — lots of them — sitting around, playing video games or watching TV.

Not once did she see one of them with a book.

“I thought there’s got to be something better for these kids to do,” Miss Smith said, recalling those drives.

So the science teacher decided she would get them to read. She came up with an innovative “Wash and Learn” program at the laundry.

It started as Miss Smith’s master’s thesis at Brooklyn College’s School of Education and picked up speed in the spring, when she managed to get Clean Rite officials to donate $12,000 for books, supplies and general expenses.

In the early going, Miss Smith read to the children. Then, they began reading to one another. Before long, they were asking for help with their homework. Their parents noticed — and cared.

“No matter where you teach, whether it’s New York or Des Moines, Iowa, if you can engage the kids, they will respond,” Miss Smith said.

And the children keep coming. Miss Smith has expanded the program to a second Clean Rite, also in Brooklyn, and persuaded the college to let other students help out for credit.

“I like to read with all these people,” Brandon Bacchus, 7, said during a brief timeout from “Mummies in the Morning.” “It’s not like school; it’s more fun; and you’re not doing stuff because the teacher tells you to.”

For many of the Brooklyn College students, the program allows them their first hands-on experience dealing with children.

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