During the latter part of 2016, we had the opportunity to support two support separate literacy initiatives to make books available to underserved kids through a new “community” – barbershops. The first initiative, “Fade to Books,” was the brainchild of Tonya Garcia, the Director of the Long Branch Public Library. Ms. Garcia wanted to find a way to highlight the ongoing importance of barbers and barbershops and to empower youth by promoting literacy in partnership with the barbers.
Modeled on the Long Branch initiative, the 2nd initiative was named “Read Up to Shape Up,” and was spearheaded by the Department of Child Protection and Permanency in Essex County.
As an organization dedicated to providing access to books for underserved kids, we loved the creativity of this distribution model and recognized the very real potential to reach boys – who often fall behind in their literacy skills at an early age. We were immediately in and provided enough books to create free libraries in 22 separate Essex and Monmouth barbershops.
Since these initial launches, we remain involved in helping to launch many, many more “Barbershop Bookshelves” across multiple NJ Counties. The feedback about the impact that these “Barbershop Bookshelves” are having on the youth who visit these shops is extremely positive. We have gathered resources from the various programs and would like to share them here in an effort of raise awareness about this idea and make it easier for programs to start in new communities across New Jersey.
Bottom line, we know that barbershops in low-income areas are an amazing opportunity to get books into the hands of kids who need them – especially boys. (We are also not opposed to working with hair salons too! We just haven’t been asked). If you are already working with a barbershop that needs more books or you are thinking about setting one or more up in your community, please explore the resources below and let us know! Apply here to find out more about “Books & Barbers.”