The Reading with Barbers “Grooming Readers and Leaders” initiative is designed to help students ages 4-14 identify as readers in a safe, out-of-school community space. As the only collective impact program of its kind sponsored by an independent school district, Reading with Barbers (RWB) taps into the energy and enthusiasm of community-based barbers – especially those in African-American neighborhoods – who are often seen by adults as the hub of neighborhood activities and the place where thought-leaders gather for influential conversation and comradery.
RWB aligns with the Fort Worth ISD’s 100 X 25 initiative to make sure every third grader born in 2016 is reading on grade level by 2025. Currently only about 1/3 of FWISD students are reading on grade level, which is a clear indicator of future academic success. The 100 X 25 initiative requires innovative programs to ensure students are surrounded by literacy initiatives that help them cultivate a love and appreciation for reading and books not only while in school, but also in homes and the community.
The RWB pilot initiative began with a charter group of barbers in 2017. These barbers are located primarily in east and southeast Fort Worth. Lessons learned from these barbers will allow the RWB program to grow and expand into other parts of the city. While the initial focus was on young male African-American students who historically are behind in literacy levels nationwide compared to their peer groups, students of all genders and ethnicities are being included as the RWB program expands.
Charles Hodges, Director Eastside Alliance
Zenobia Hood, Coordinator Eastside Alliance