We are excited to partner with the Houston Public Library (HPL), Put It In a Book Foundation, Little Free Libraries and Friends of the Houston Public Library on a new and innovative program called Groomed for Literacy. Groomed for Literacy aims to address the literacy gap for underserved youth, with specific emphasis on young boys of color. The mission of this program is to support barbers in serving as reading mentors and to distribute books to children in need.
Research has shown that only one book is available for every 300 children in low-income areas, as opposed to 13 books, on average, in homes of middle-and-high income children. Unfortunately, books are a luxury that many families cannot afford, yet they are essential to a child's development. Without access to age-appropriate reading materials, children are already behind when they start the school year. In order to break the cycle of low literacy within families and reduce the performance gap, which constrains the education system and fuels the achievement gap in later years, we must work together to provide Houston's children with adequate literacy resources.
Groomed for Literacy will increase the books available through the placement of Little Free Libraries stocked with books in barber shops. In addition to supplying the communities in need with books, the program will increase public awareness of the importance of access to books and literacy. Little Free Libraries will contain My Link library card applications and information on the nearest HPL library location and hours of operation. Each partnering barber shop will be assigned a local HPL library. The HPL library location assigned to the partnering barber shop will be responsible for “refreshing” the books within the Little Free Library, as well as picking up and processing the library card applications. The books will be replenished by the Houston Public Library, Friends of the Houston Public Library and book donations received in support of the program. Youth will be asked to sign in/log in each time they read a book in the barber shop or take a book home. Incentives (i.e., discount/free haircuts, new books for home library, etc.) will be provided by participating barbers and HPL based on books read.
The program launch took place on September 24 with youth and their parents who participated in the Houston Public Library’s Summer Camp STREAM program at Scenic Woods Regional Library. Volunteers from the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Young Professionals Group, CITGO, the Harris County Department of Education, the Junior League of Houston, and others assembled the little free libraries. In addition to creating libraries, volunteers offered free haircuts for the participating youth.
Photos courtesy of Michelle Watson of CatchLight Group.