This ‘Razor Sharp’ reading program is looking for another location to expand to

Razor Sharp Readers lets the kids pick out a book to read while they get a fresh cut. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of Razor Sharp Readers)
Razor Sharp Readers lets the kids pick out a book to read while they get a fresh cut. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of Razor Sharp Readers)

Trying to get kids to read can be hard and according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, roughly 80 percent of African-American boys fail to meet state reading standards.

That’s where the Razor Sharp Readers program comes in.

Started back in April 2018, Clever Communities in Action launched their Razor Sharp Readers program, aimed at getting boys and girls grades K-6 to get more into reading.

Clever Communities use barbershops as venues for the program because often a barbershop is sort of a “right of passage” for young boys, said Starr Armstrong, founder and executive director of Clever Communities in Action.

The boys look up to their barbers, and see them as role models and mentors, so by having the barbers encouraging them to read makes reading seem cool, she said.

The girls can participate, too, with each barbershop location having a stylist on-site where the girls can get their hair done while reading to their stylist.

Getting the word out

Currently Razor Sharp Readers is operating in two barbershops are currently looking to expand to a third location in Virginia Beach before the summer, Armstrong said.

They are looking for a barbershop that’s kid- and community friendly, a barbershop that is willing to participate in the program and is willing to work with the community around them, she said.

The way the program works is the children have a bookshelf they can choose books off at each location, books written by African-American authors and books that center on black characters.

Children can then read the book before they get their haircut and once they’re in the chair they can read out loud to the barber or quietly to themselves, she said.

What happens next is an important part of the program — once the haircut is finished the barber will call out “we’ve got a Razor Sharp reader” and the staff will call back, “keep shining young king or queen.”

Each barbershop has a chart when the kids can keep track of how many books read/haircuts they've received in the program. They are eligible for a free haircut after so many visits. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of Clever Communities in Action)
The chart let’s the kids keep track of their reading in the program. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of Clever Communities in Action)

Armstrong said the encouragement and mentorship this program brings children is what makes this so special.

After the haircut, the child can then sign their name on a chart and after so many haircuts (it ranges between 5-7 haircuts depending on the location) they will get a haircut for free.

As far as Armstrong knows, they are the only program like this in Hampton Roads.

The goal of Razor Sharp Readers is to train the barbers on the importance of literacy, to close the summer gap on reading and to keep kids excited about reading.

Those interested in donating to the program can check out their Amazon wish list that shows all of the books the program is looking to buy.

Interested barbershops that want to learn more about participating in the program should either visit the website or send a message to admin@clevercommunities.org

Click here to learn more about Clever Communities in Action and their other programs.

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