Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Books in the Barbershop, Jackson, Mississippi
Thanks to Books in the Barbershop founders Rosaline and Marcus McCoy for adapting a Harlem books in the barbershop model to improve reading and much more in their community of Jackson, Mississippi.

Marcus is the intrepid, entrepreneurial, and lead barber, and Rosaline, his wife, is chief strategist and is (was) the Jackson Council PTA president who began the project. Cheers for them--and the community!

Why Books in the Barbershop?

  • "cornerstone of the community"
  • "to better engage men in a place that men love"
  • "put a little library into every barbershop in the city"

Essential Partners  Barbers & barbershops

Optional Community Partners 

  • Parent Teacher Association or Organization (PTA/PTO)
  • Businesses
  • Local foundations
  • School district - provides reading instruction strategies used by literacy coaches
  • Jackson barbers, a young reader,
    and Councilman Stamps
  • Literacy groups
  • The entire community

Any of the partners can drop off books at a central location (Jackson Public Schools Partners in Education office in this model).


  • Increases literacy skills early
  • Increases male engagement
  • Changes the conversation--from food, school, and similar things to "What are you reading?"
  • Connects local businesses, parents and young men of the community
  • Encourages youths to read, not just play with a cell phone
  • Created and grown by the community with a little help from partners

At McWillie Elementary, every student passed the [statewide third-grade 
reading] test on the first try after implementation of this program.


  • Children can set goals, e.g., reading 20 books. 
  • Young clients who read and discuss a book get a small toy or snack from a vending machine.
  • Youths take the books home, read them, and bring them back.
  • Youths are engaged in reading aloud or silently at the shop.
  • Youths, especially siblings, read to each other.
  • Some parents read to their children.
  • Readers receive encouragement, validation, and sometimes help pronouncing words.
  • African-American youths identify more closely with the love of reading and with adult males as champions of reading.

Negative (Really?)
Cutting hair sometimes slows as the barbers pronounce words and ask questions about books.


  • Expand participating barbershops
  • Expand the program to beauty salons to help girls

Jackson City Council President De'Keither Stamps, Ward 4, said in a press release:
Councilman Stamps
Historically, barber shops have served as a hub for young men to discuss cultural, political and community-related topics. For generations to come, fathers will continue to bring their sons into barber shops, so why not provide these popular, local establishments with the resources needed to promote and encourage literacy among our community."                                                                         
Jackson Free Press, 6-5-15

Books in the Barbershop     

Barbershop Books in NYC

"Tackling children's literacy in a Harlem barbershop"

"Barbershops place books in boys' hands"

In October 2015, Tracey Gallagher, director for Teen Trendsetters (TM), a program of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, told us about Books in the Barbershop, a highly adaptable program that can be a adapted for community of any size. Becky Dyer, the BBFFL's executive vice president, learned about it as she toured the foundation's literacy program sites around the United States. Thanks to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy for sharing with Oklahoma.

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