Youngblood: ‘Books to Barbers’ literacy campaign will encourage kids to read

Local barbershops helping to grow interest in reading ‘one cut at a time’

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 1 – In an effort to expand access to books and promote literacy throughout  Northwest Philadelphia communities, state Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood, D-Phila., has launched “Books to Barbers” – a campaign to provide donated books to barbershops to encourage young boys and girls to develop a love for reading.

Youngblood said she was inspired to bring this literacy campaign to Northwest Philadelphia after reading about the success of a similar outreach program developed by barbershops located in New York City’s Bronx community. After speaking with some local barbershops in her legislative district, she knew the program could be extremely popular.

“Barbershops are not just places to get a haircut and maybe a shave,” Youngblood said. “They historically have been, and continue to be, places to socialize and talk about what is going on in the community. They are places that set the latest trends and truly dictate what’s ‘cool’ or accepted in urban culture. By letting young boys and girls see that reading is ‘cool’ and something encouraged by our local barbershops, I know that we will be able to influence these young citizens to pick up a book and start reading.”

The kickoff for the “Books to Barbers” campaign was held on Aug. 1 at The Proper Image Barbershop. Youngblood said she is delighted to work with Ann Henderson, the barbershop owner, to begin what she believes will become a city-wide literacy program. Henderson said she was quick to accept the challenge of helping young members of community build a love for reading.

“In this day and age when the schools’ budgets are short and books are being lost, we must remember that it takes a village to raise a child, so we must make an effort together,” Henderson said. “Kids in our community are not learning to read and we can be a great resource for them. Barbershops are a great place to promote reading because it’s a place where kids can sit back, relax and read along with others.”

In addition, Youngblood said Darryl Thomas, who owns Philly Cuts Barbershop and collaborates with barbershops across Philadelphia to promote community events and social change, hopes to help springboard the “Books to Barbers” campaign across Philadelphia. Thomas said the campaign has the potential to reach thousands of young children across the city and help them understand the importance of reading.

“Once again, barbershops to the rescue.” Thomas stated. “Filling voids in the black community has been a historic role of the barbershop.”

The kickoff event is just the first step in the campaign, Youngblood said. She hopes to bring “Books to Barbers” to all barbershops in her legislative district, as well as work with lawmakers from across Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Free Library, to help develop the campaign for other communities in the city. She also hopes to partner with libraries across the commonwealth and other literacy advocates to potentially bring the program statewide.

Anyone interested in participating in “Books to Barbers,” or who would like more information on how to help with the campaign, is encouraged to contact Youngblood’s Philadelphia office at 215-849-6426.