Barbershops and beauty salons are known as quasi- community centers, filled with friendly banter and gossip.
Now, some African-American hairstyle centers in New York state will offer an educational message as well as fellowship.
The National Urban League and Scholastic Inc. will provide black-owned beauty salons and barbershops in several cities with free copies of an early-literacy guide for parents and caregivers.
Hugh B. Price, the Urban League’s president and chief executive officer, calls barber and beauty shops “important venues” in the black community where “values are discussed and priorities are shaped.”
The National Urban League hopes to enlist barbers and hairstylists to influence parents and other caregivers to make sure children read early and often.
“We have always excelled in styling their hair,” said Buenia Brown, the president of the State Culturists Association of New York, which has joined the effort. “Now we can help build strong young minds as well, so that our children’s lives will be as beautiful as their looks.”
The Scholastic guide, “Read and Rise: Preparing Our Children for a Lifetime of Success,” details practical reading tips and information on fostering the literacy skills of children from birth to age 9. The guide includes recommended book selections and lists desired reading benchmarks by age and grade.
The guides will be distributed in September, which has been designated as Achievement Month by the National Urban League, a New York City-based nonprofit. Beauty salons and barbershops in Binghamton, Buffalo, Central Islip, New York City, Rochester, and White Plains will be the first to receive the guides.
The Urban League hopes to expand its partnership with beauticians and barbers. The National PTA also will help distribute the guides. The effort is part of the league’s Campaign for African-American Achievement.
—Karla Scoon Reid
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2001 edition of Education Week