Barbara Bush’s literacy legacy lives on in Houston barber shops

HOUSTON – Former First Lady Barbara Bush has a connection with Houston stylists and hip haircuts. Her literacy foundation is behind a program building small libraries in barbershops where fades blend with fiction.

Between clips, cuts, and fades Hygienix barber shop owner Quentin Richardson is all about talking.

“I like running my mouth,” he said. “When I get in here I go. I go and I go. Sometimes in my talking, I don’t know what type of impact I’m having.”

He is one of 17 Houston barbers grooming kids for literacy. It is a program started by Houston Public Libraries and the city of Houston Health Department’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) program.

Two years ago, they handpicked barbershops to host Little Free Libraries. Each has about 50 books that kids can read in the shop or take home.

The Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation donated all of the books and more. The program’s goal is to get more minority children, especially those in poverty, books to read.

“Literacy is the cornerstone for all aspects: health, wellness, financial aspects,” Kristi Rangel, education coordinator for MBK.

“We’ve done a lot to curtail any literacy gaps that may exist,” Aziza Mims, whose son Carnegie, 13, went from reading below grade level to tackling books written for 12th grade readers.

“I don’t see how (the books are for high school seniors) because the books are kind of easy to read to me,” Carnegie Mims said.

The books also come recommended from barbers who say they are often privy to things children do not tell their parents. However, thanks to the Bush Literacy Foundation, they call the barbershop the place to be.

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