Boys, Books & Barbers: Providing Cutting-Edge Opportunities Through Literacy

Gerard Gauthier, BuzzersBlog

A few weeks ago I came across the Culturally Byus Facebook page and was instantly impressed by their Boys, Books & Barbers program. It is an objective designed to inspire young minority boys to read while at the barbershop. This was fascinating to me. Growing up as a child, I remember having to wait for what could be up to an hour or so before being seen by a barber. During that wait period, I would either read uninteresting magazines, twiddle my thumbs, or just stare at blank space while waiting my turn with two or three customers in front of me.  As I continued browsing the page, it mentioned how the program strives to promote literacy and encourages barbers to motivate young boys into picking up a book during their stay at the shop.

Chardae Duffy is the owner of Culturally Byus, which is the parent company of the Boys, Books, & Barbers program. I interviewed her to get some additional details about her program and what factors motivated her to start it.  Chardae herself is an educator who has years of experience teaching and is now a media specialist for Hillsborough County Public Schools. Her current position is what prompted the idea of increasing the literacy rate of young minority boys. “A lack of representation” she says, as one of the main factors that impacts the interest of young boys to want to read.

However, it wasn’t just representation in books, but also a lack of representation in professional fields that would encourage them to read more. A media specialist, librarian, teacher, tutor, a reading coach, these all are professional fields that need more people who young minority children can connect with. Chardae is spot on, I myself having a 5 year old son, finds that he connects more with books whose main characters looks just like him. Having relatable characters and story plots could make the biggest difference in keeping minority children engaged in the story.

Chardae does not want to only focus on their current internal struggles, but wants to get them prepared to succeed in the future. I posed a question about the barbers pertaining to the level of engagement they provided upon being introduced to this program. In her response, she stated “The barbers are usually very excited once I break down the details of my program”. She also mentions how the barbers are very helpful in helping spread the word and making sure the kids who are waiting their turn, could do so by picking up one of her books they haven’t read before.

A barbershop is a safe haven for men and young boys, it is not only a place to get a haircut, but it can easily transform into ESPN Headquarters. People also suddenly become movie experts, politicians and comedians. It a place where as a child and even currently, I frequent on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The Barber client relationship is often built when we’re young, and as unorthodox as it may seem, what better place or person can take part in motivating young boys to read to help improve their proficiency in literacy.

The great thing about the Boys, Books & Barbers program is that it also offers an incentive for young boys to keep reading. Chardae has developed a mechanism that rewards the readers once they pass a quiz after reading her books. She is partnering with the shops to offer a free haircut to readers who have finished their books and successfully passes her quiz (which she provides in a tablet or a link for).

Chardae plans to expand her program throughout the city of Tampa, and hopefully build from that in the future. The Boys, Books & Barbers program can greatly impact the literacy rate of these young boys. It can also spread a desire to want to read more and encourage friends and siblings to do the same.  I enjoyed my interview with Chardae and I am rooting for her all the way. To support her program either through book or monetary donations, you can do so in the links provided below:

Amazon Wish List Link: Wish List

Facebook Page: Culturally BYUS LLC

Instagram: @culturallybyusllc

Cash App: $culturallybyus

For additional information or book donation questions, you may also contact Chardae at culturallybyus@gmail.com

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