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Barbershop Bookshelf program launches for Read Across America Day

The barbershop bookshelves go up on March 2
Posted at 12:42 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 07:45:58-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — When two Buffalo educators saw a gap in the reading abilities of their students, they decided to take things outside of the classroom to target students and make reading fun.

"Instead of having them reach for a tablet, they could reach for a book and it could be a really good bonding experience," said Jelicia Jimenez.

The goal for Jimenez and her co-founder Ruqayyah Simmons, 5th grade teacher, was to get books in the hands of young boys.

"Who often show less interest than girls in reading in the classroom,"said Simmons, who teaches at Charter School of Inquiry in Buffalo.

So they decided to meet boys where they are, a comfortable space they visit often, a barbershop. They reached out to three local shops, who agreed to put bookshelves, little lending libraries inside, for what they're calling the Barbershop Bookshelf program by their organization Black Boys Read Too, Inc.

"I was excited, we have a lot a lot of kids that sit in here and just twiddle their fingers, tablets, phones," said Joesph Tyson, owner of Tyson Cuts.

On Read Across America Day, March 2, they'll put bookshelves in the following locations in Buffalo:

  • Tyson Cuts Barbershop: 259 Carolina St.
  • The Standard: 76 Allen St.
  • SM 79 Barber Co.: 1569 Hertel Ave.

These books are brand new and hand picked specifically for them.

"We put an emphasis on books that have Black protagonists, heroes and role models in them. So that our students are able to see characters that look like them and it'll be more likely that they want to read," said Simmons.

They made sure to get books that are brand new, purchased with money from their own pockets.

"We said that we want to get books in their hands by any means necessary and if that means going into our own pocket to get started, we will," said Simmons.

They plan to change the books out quarterly and do some pop up literacy events in the community. They have an amazon wishlist of books they're hoping to get next, to help them, click here.

Black Boys Read Too Instagram