New Partnership Boosts Boys' Literacy Skills

The National Institute for Literacy (Institute) and Mocha Moms, Inc., a national support organization for stay-at-home mothers of color, have launched an innovative partnership to boost children's literacy skills, and they are turning to local barbershops to kick off their new effort.

On June 21 from 3-5 p.m., the Institute and Mocha Moms will unveil a reading nook at Campbell's Barbershop, 5703 Dix Street N.E., complete with more than 250 books for boys and free publications for parents that support the development of reading and other literacy skills at home. The new book nook is part of Boys Booked on Barbershops (B-BOB), a growing national initiative launched in 2004 that takes advantage of naturally occurring opportunities in the community to foster a love of reading. B-BOB reading nooks have debuted in more than 100 barbershops across the country, from Florida to Illinois.

"I can't think of a better way to promote reading among boys while engaging men in fostering an interest in books," said Sandra L. Baxter, Ed.D., director of the National Institute for Literacy. To date, the Institute has published nearly 50 million copies of its scientifically-based reading and literacy publications designed for parents, families, caregivers, literacy practitioners, and educators. All Institute publications are distributed at no cost.

Mocha Moms, Inc. has been a B-BOB partner since 2006. Since then, more than 30 Mocha Moms chapters across the country have signed on to create reading nooks in local barbershops. The nooks will feature books by and about African Americans, with an emphasis on topics that interest the barbershop clientele.

"The barbershops offer a fun, safe, and familiar environment for children to read and be read to by caring adults as they wait their turn or sit in the barber's chair," says Dee Dee Jackson, national president of Mocha Moms. "We are very excited to be an integral part of this out-of-the box concept."

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nine out of ten African-American students have not mastered reading by the fourth grade. Through their new partnership, the Institute and Mocha Moms are also planning a wide range of national campaigns and activities, including a "Take Your Child to the Library Day," to increase the number of children and families in communities of color who obtain library cards and who read for enjoyment.

"By working with Mocha Moms, the Institute has an opportunity to reach out to and equip parents with some of the resources and expertise they need to help build literacy skills, and to support and encourage reading success in the early years," Baxter added.

A similar partnership launch and Boys Booked on Barbershops event is scheduled for October 25 in Atlanta.