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.