By September 2017, Barbershop Books will create child-friendly reading spaces for boys ages four to eight in 110 barbershops across 11 cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Columbia (South Carolina), Columbus, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. These cities were selected because they have large African-American populations. They also contain individuals and organizations that have expressed interest in or have pledged support for the program. Barbershop Books commitment will impact more than 4,000 boys annually and provide early literacy training to more than 110 local volunteers including barbers, parents, and other community members. While Barbershop Books target audience is young black boys, the program will continue to enable community members and organizations to sponsor individual reading spaces for any barbershop in the U.S., regardless of the racial or ethnic makeup of the barbershops clientele.
Barbershop Books will partner with city governments, school districts, foundations, local organizations, and community institutions such as churches. Community partners fund the local implementation of the program, identify barbershops, and recruit volunteers. Barbershop Books conducts early literacy workshops for participating barbers. These workshops have many purposes: 1) Describe the reading challenges black boys face; 2) Explain the programs mission and desired outcomes; 3) Outline specific actions barbers can take to ensure the programs success; and 4) Offer practical reading and engagement strategies barbers can use to support early literacy in their barbershops. In communities lacking organized barber networks, Barbershop Books will train local volunteers to conduct literacy workshops in participating barbershops.
Each Barbershop Books reading space includes the following four items: 1) A curated set of 15 culturally relevant, age appropriate, and gender responsive childrens books; 2) A set of 15 replacement books; 3) One colorful 2ft x 2ft bookshelf; and 4) One program window decal. Local partners will also have the option to sponsor a Barbershop Books subscription that will provide each participating barbershop with three new books per month.
Quarter One deliverables revolve around identifying and initiating contact with local funders and implementation partners across the 10 target cities. Barbershop Books will establish key contacts with the following: child-serving literacy nonprofits, Office of the Mayor in the respective cities, School District Central Office, local members of the My Brothers Keeper initiative, and local members of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. By December 2016, Barbershop Books will generate a list of at least three key contacts for each city and will have scheduled or already held calls/meetings with at least three potential funders and implementation partners in each city.
Quarter Two deliverables will finalize implementation partners, select 11 participating barbershops in each of the targeted cities, and recruit 110 local volunteers with at least one volunteer for each barbershop. By March 2017, Barbershop Books will have a complete list of each implementation partner and each local volunteer in each partnering city.
Quarter Three deliverables relate to volunteer training, the installation of reading spaces, and program evaluation. By June 2 2017, Barbershop Books will have led at least 10 early literacy workshops for barbers or workshop trainings for local volunteers in each of the targeted cities. Local partners will have installed the bookshelves at all 110 participating barbershops and collected baseline survey data from 300 barbers across the 10 targeted cities. The surveys will gather barbers observations of boys reading behavior in their barbershops.
Quarter Four deliverables relate to communication and program evaluation. By September 2016, local volunteers will share pictures of each operating reading space and collect data from a follow-up barber survey. Barbershop Books will display a photo of each participating barbershops reading space along with the shops address on the program website. Parents who frequent participating barbershops will be strongly encouraged to share photos of their children reading in the barbershops on social media.
Reading proficiency is an essential skill for success in the 21st century, yet according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress administered by the U.S. Department of Education, more than 85% of Americas black male fourth graders are not proficient in reading. Numerous studies confirm that children who are not proficient in reading by third grade face a greater risk of high school dropout. Low literacy and high school dropout today will cost the U.S. billions of dollars tomorrow in low wages, lost taxes, welfare benefits, crime, and incarceration.
Barbershop Books believes low reading achievement among black boys is a symptom of many large and interconnected social, cultural, and educational problems. Black men are missing from many black boys early reading experiences at school and at home. Less than two percent of U.S. teachers are black males and many black boys are raised by single mothers. These environmental factors are significant because social psychology research suggests that modeling and encouragement from relevant same-sex role models can positively impact individuals attitudes about academic subjects as well as influence what they think about their own academic capabilities.
A disproportionately high percentage of black children live in book deserts where libraries, bookstores, and reading materials at home are scarce. NYU education professor Susan Neumans research has found as few as one age-appropriate book for every 300 children in some of Americas low-income communities. The Cooperative Childrens Book Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has found, year after year, that few childrens books are published that reflect the culture and reading interests of black children, adding to the many reading obstacles that black boys face.
Maintaining reading spaces in 11 New York City barbershops over the past 20 months, Barbershop Books has conducted observations and received valuable feedback from participating shop owners, barbers, and community members that demonstrate the viability of the barbershop to support early literacy. The feedback and observations also highlighted the need for early literacy training for barbers. Corporate partnerships with Scholastic and Kidkraft have significantly reduced the per-unit cost of each reading space and have also improved the efficiency and cost of storing and shipping program materials. Barbershop Books is leveraging these new partnerships to expand into 11 cities.
We are currently seeking the following: Marketing, branding, and website development support; Financial resources for capacity building and programming; and Implementation partners in Chicago, Washington, DC, Los Angles, Newark, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
Barbershop Books offers guidance and support in the following areas: Black male achievement; Early literacy programming in diverse communities; Literacy program development; Cultural responsive programming; and Community engagement strategies.