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Barbershop Books: How Black Kids Are Being Encouraged To Read While Getting Haircuts

By Victor Trammell

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) just released some sad news in a report, which covered the problems black K-12 students are having with reading.

The DOE research data revealed that 85 percent of black K-12 public school students are reading at below average standards. Not being able to read greatly hinders a child’s ability to graduate from high school and ultimately become a functionally literate adult in society.

Fortunately, an educator operating in Ohio is working toward closing the reading achievement gap for black children with a program that encourages them to read while they are getting haircuts. WOSU Public Media just reported a story about a project at the Ohio State College of Barber and Styling called Barbershop Books.

David Gale, the school’s director of education, told WOSU Public Media that over one thousand children come to the barber and styling academy every month to get their hair styled. The Columbus public school board and Columbus city council merged together and partnered with Barbershop Books to help make the program a success.

Gale was chosen as one of the 10 local educators at barber and beauty colleges in the city to oversee this program. “As far as this concept goes, there was nothing like this going on,” Gale said in an interview.  “There’s magazines for adults, but nothing for the kids,” he continued.

The concept for Barbershop Books started in New York City about seven years ago. In that city, around 12 barber and beauty colleges were participatinng in the program before the great deed spread to Columbus. Alvin Irby, a first grade reading teacher at a school in Bronx, New York is the founder of the program.

“[It’s about] helping cultivate children’s reading identity and helping them to be able to say three words, ‘I am a reader,'” Irby said in an interview.

Barbershop Books is a great way educators are making a difference by meeting children where they are in order to help them. Hopefully, this great reading initiative for children will spread to other U.S. cities in the future that are struggling with literacy in urban public school systems.

For more information and a step by step guide on how to transition your children and family to homeschooling,



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