Books and barbers: Local program encourages African-American boys to read

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A local organization has teamed up with a Norfolk barbershop to help close the achievement gap among African-American students.

Clever Communities in Action started in 2011 and focuses on promoting positive cultural representation through educational programs.

President and Ceo Starr Armstrong said their newest program, Razor Sharp Readers, will meet kids where they visit.

“It’s like a rite of passage. It’s a community activity in the African-American community, so why not meet the children where they are already,” she said about starting the program inside a barbershop.

Better Barbers, off Tidewater Drive, will allow children to pick out books and read them to their barbers.

The books they can chose from have African-American characters.

The stories are geared more towards boys, because Armstrong said there’s also an achievement gap between African-American male and female students.

“There are a plethora of reasons why there’s an achievement gap, but part of that is because of representation,” she said.

12-year-old De’von Dail said being able to read books with characters that look like them is inspiring.

“They might say to themselves I want to become a basketball player, a football player or become a lawyer,” he said.

A Razor Sharp reader chart hangs on the wall of the barbershop and keeps track of customers who come in and read.

After the fifth visit, readers get a free haircut.

Armstrong said the program not only encourages young customers, but those working with them.

“Children look up to their barbers a lot of time. They look forward to getting their haircut, so barbers now realize they’re making a difference through that haircut,” she said.

Armstrong is hoping to expand the program to other barbershops in Hampton Roads.

Better Barbers is located at 7468 Tidewater Drive, Unit B in Norfolk.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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