As barbers, we play very specific and important roles in each of our clients lives that sit in our chair. Whether it’s encouraging kids in school, helping someone find employment, image consulting, or simply just lending an ear when a client needs to vent. We are called upon constantly to fill-in in areas that people just don’t feel comfortable requesting or sharing information with anyone else. Each ½ hour or more at a time that we spend with our clients, builds a relationship and connection of trust that is second to no other industry. Barbers and barbershops are the pillars of every community and can be powerful in their influence. It is for this reason that we can be instrumental in the success of neighborhood growth and youth development by strategically using our influence to direct children as well as their parents on a path towards literacy.
Studies have shown that if a child is not reading on its equivalent grade level by the 3rd grade, he or she is more likely to drop out by high school. Potentially resulting in criminal activity down the line. So, how do we take control of the situation? With that statistic heavy on our hearts, a group of highly influential Barbers decided to collaborate after meeting with the U.S. Department of Education to form a literacy program inside of our individual barbershops. That core group is now called B.R.I.D.G.E. Barbers.
The concept of B.R.I.D.G.E. Barbers came about because of the awareness of the loss of reading development during the “gap” between school years. B.R.I.D.G.E. is an acronym for “Barbershop Reading Initiative Developing Growth in Education”. Our goal is to help create a bridge to cover the gap between learning in school, learning at home, and learning during summer vacation by offering alternative incentives to encourage kids to read more. In essence… “bridge the gap”. Incentives can include free haircuts, designs, or complimentary grooming tools. By utilizing the space and time within the Barbershop, parents will have the opportunity to read to their children either using the provided devices or in the traditional manner. Programs can be designed to work in direct correlation with school curriculum to provide seamless integration. The use of today’s technology, such as phone/tablet apps, can help keep kids engaged and intrigued. Making reading and learning fun will build their excitement and make them more inclined to continue this type of interaction.
The summer period tends to make kids less enthused about learning and more excited about the freedom of being completely disengaged from everything about school. Generating a community effort barbershop to barbershop, we can create an environment that changes the stigma of reading being boring, into the coolest thing to do! Collectively we can change a culture and mindset and just maybe put an end to a childhood verse that states… “No more reading… no more books. No more teachers dirty looks”
“Bridging the gap”