North Georgia Local Government

Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth Brings the Books to the Barbershop

Rome Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth (RFCCCY) never misses a chance to get creative with their initiatives and, of course, involve as much of the community as possible!

RFCCCY kicked off National Reading Month with an inaugural event in Rome-Floyd County. Books, Barbers and Beauticians was introduced at two locations on Sunday, with the aim of promoting literacy in a fun, functional, incentivizing way. March 2 was Read Across America Day as well as the birthday of the one and only Dr. Seuss’, and RFCCCY wasted no time getting involved and gathering books.

This was not just a one-day event. RFCCCY Executive Director, LaDonna Collins, explained how Books, Barbers and Beauticians works, “When the kids come to get their hair done, they’ll choose a book and read it to their barber or beautician and then they’ll receive a snack or another kind of incentive. The most exciting thing about this is that every fifth book that they read, they will receive a gift card and every 20th book that they read, they’ll get free barber or beautician services.”

RFCCCY Board Member, Vondell Ringer, joined in support of the new initiative. “I think this is wonderful, especially during this age of COVID when kids are struggling,” she said. “Hopefully, this is a good incentive to encourage the kids to read, and even get the parents involved. We know that boys go to the barber shop and little girls come to the beauty salon to get their hair done, so what better place to incorporate reading while they’re sitting in the chair, under the dryer, or waiting to get their hair done. It’s a good use of their time to read instead of being on electronic devices.”

RFCCCY, along with sponsors Amerigroup and the Rome Noon Optimist Club, provided both locations with books as well as the snacks and incentives for the kids. Collins said that they also collaborated with Ferst Readers of Floyd County, as well as Barnes and Noble for the books that they handpicked, special for the event.
Wraps Styling Salon (700 E. 2nd Ave.) was the first stop on Sunday, and Owner, Sherica Bailey was excited to witness her shop full of happy little voices, choosing their books and practicing reading the pages before their turn to sit with her and take photos in the styling chair.

In her 10 years of business in Rome, Bailey said that this event is unlike any she’s seen before.

“This is a really neat experience for me,” she smiled. “It’s different than anything I’ve done before. I’m noticing that there are also some books about hair that they brought, so that the kids can gain some confidence about their hair and be happy with who they are. This is something that I enjoy and that I can bring to the community and I would love for this event to continue on.”

Bailey even utilized the event to showcase her tribute to Black History Month throughout the setting of the shop. Upon entering, a table displayed a salon-inspired blast from the past. Bailey displayed various tools and products of the trade, as well as some facts about the African Americans who invented/manufactured them. There were also cards laid out on the table covering various topics associated with Black History such as voting rights, the Freedom Riders, and school integration conflicts.

Collins said that the idea for Books, Barbers and Beauticians was inspired by a program developed in Harlem, New York City, called Barbershop Books. Collins explained why RFCCCY felt it was important to engage the Rome-Floyd community in such an initiative.

“One of our strategies for the Georgia Family Connection partnership is improved school success,” she said, “and we decided to focus on literacy. We have an area called Community of Hope, and at one point in time, that one-mile radius between east Rome and south Rome had one of the highest substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect.”

Collins added that the lack of care when it comes to a child’s hair exists as a nonacademic barrier; the type of thing that RFCCCY strives to impact through strengthening families. “This event is about more than just books, it’s also about language nutrition,” Collins explained that just sitting in the chair with their barber or beautician and having a conversation is such a simplistic moment that can truly have a profound effect on the children.

Jennifer Navichoque, northwest regional marketing and outreach coordinator for sponsor, Amerigroup, was in the shop with her daughter. “We love to support and sponsor many types of initiatives and literacy is one of the big ones that we love to support. We strive to help the community encourage literacy in our children, that’s why we are here!”

The second location for Books, Barbers and Beauticians was Signature Styles (located inside Hawthorn Suites), owned by Wartanna Haywood, affectionately known as Beedie. While Haywood’s current location is only a year old, she has owned her shop in the heart of downtown Rome for 27 years, and her passion for her work and involvement in this event was evident.

“I love the fact that we can encourage children!” Haywood smiled. “Reading is fundamental and so many kids have gotten away from it because of videos and games on electronic devices. Now I feel like they are losing some of the potency that has created us and made us who we are. When you read, you learn, you comprehend, and then you’re able to build on that.”

Haywood expressed that she truly feels that an initiative such as this is much deeper than just reading a book. She even specially made and sported a T-shirt on Sunday; bright neon green that read “Potency” across the front, the “o” replaced by a round apothecary bottle of liquid. The shirt served as a visual aid for the “potency” that Haywood feels represents the fundamental strength and capability found in the encouragement of literacy.
“I’m excited about what we’re about to do for young minds,” she added. “If they could just capture the moment and savor it, it’s going to make a big difference.”

“This is our way of partnering to empower within the community,” Collins added. “We are so thankful for our sponsors and for this community.”

Collins said that RFCCCY is also accepting donations in the form of kid-friendly magazine subscriptions such as National Geographic or Sports Illustrated Kids to add to the reading collection for Books and Barbers/Beauticians.

“We have generations of families that are coming to get their hair done by Miss Beedie and same thing with Miss Sherica. We wanted to choose people that have a good relationship and camaraderie with children,” Collins explained. “But we’re going to be expanding. We have already had beauticians in west Rome that have reached out to us. We are hoping that this time next year around Read Across America week and Dr. Suess’ birthday we’re going to include more barbers and beauticians and make this a community-wide thing.”

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