Literacy initiative aims to eliminate book deserts

Barbershops and beauty salons tapped for effort to expose more black children to books.


Barbershops and beauty salons on Springfield’s south side are new centers for putting books in the hands of young readers through the work of a new nonprofit called The Conscious Connect.

Karlos Marshall and his co-founders are intent on ending what are known as book deserts in primarily black urban neighborhoods. So far the group has placed 10-20 books in four barbershops and three beauty salons in Springfield and one barbershop in Columbus through a program they call The Root. Their goal is to end book deserts in every major Ohio city by 2021.

“It’s educating, giving the kids something to do other than video games and running the streets,” said Brian Arnold, owner of BFG Barber Shop at the corner of Euclid and Lowry. “It’s giving them an important tool about life, because if you can’t read, you can’t add or subtract, you’re not going to be able to function.”

Marshall, who graduated from Springfield High in 2009 and earned degrees at Wittenberg and Dayton, huddled with his older brother Keith Marshall and fellow Wittenberg graduate Moses Mbeseha to find a way to boost cultural education. When they came across the books in barbershops idea, they were sold. But they added beauty salons to reach young girls as well as boys. All of the books have black main characters or black authors.

“To our knowledge we’re the only organization in the country to take this concept beyond barbershops but also put them into the beauty salons,” Karlos Marshall said. “Barbershops and beauty salons have always been a staple in small-knit communities. So we’re turning them into cultural resource centers of urban education.”

The short-term goals are a first location in Dayton by late July and 20 to 30 more locations spread across Springfield, Dayton and Columbus by the end of September. The group relies on book and monetary donations. They are accepting donations at gofundme.com/pennycollections.

The organization operates two other programs. In May, they took eight Springfield youth on a free field trip to the National Underground Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Marshall wants to do more trips to other black history sites. The other is a 10-week summer reading program called Cutting Illiteracy Through Culture. Information can be found at any of the participating barbershops or beauty salons or at theconsciousconnect.org.


Reader Comments


Next Up in Community News

South Carolina prisoner suing to smoke pot in jail, says his religion requires it
South Carolina prisoner suing to smoke pot in jail, says his religion requires it

A prisoner is suing the South Carolina Department of Corrections, contending the agency has violated his religious freedoms by refusing to allow him to smoke pot or wear dreadlocks. >> Read more trending news  Inmate James Rose, 41, filed the federal lawsuit last week, contending the agency has violated his constitutional rights by not providing...
Patriots’ Julian Edelman wears cleats to honor synagogue shooting victims 
Patriots’ Julian Edelman wears cleats to honor synagogue shooting victims 

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is wearing cleats in honor of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims during Sunday night’s game against the Steelers. >> Read more trending news  Edelman tweeted a photo of the cleats, along with the words "In Remembrance" with all of the victims’ names. The cleats...
Woman trying to return U.S. Army ring found at Georgia Dairy Queen
Woman trying to return U.S. Army ring found at Georgia Dairy Queen

A Georgia woman is hoping to find the owner of a U.S. Army ring. >> Read more trending news  Kimberly Smith reached out to Channel 2 Action News with photos of the ring. She found it at a Dairy Queen in Newnan on Dec. 14. In an Instagram post, Smith said, "I’d love to find the amazing, brave soul (and) owner of this special...
Artist paints Iowa’s largest mural on side of 110-foot silo
Artist paints Iowa’s largest mural on side of 110-foot silo

An Australian artist turned the side of a 110-foot silo into what is believed to be the largest mural in Iowa.  >> Read more trending news  Guido van Helten finds a challenge in all his projects, but he especially enjoyed adding the details and accounting for the silo’s curves in achieving the final product. "This one's probably...
'Nobody should work here, ever': Teen quits Walmart job over store intercom
'Nobody should work here, ever': Teen quits Walmart job over store intercom

A 17-year-old delivered a pointed message to people inside a Canada Walmart before quitting his job. The Edmonton Journal reported that Jackson Racicot posted a video of himself speaking over the intercom of a Walmart in Grand Prairie, Alberta, addressing customers and co-workers. The profanity-laced video was posted on his Facebook page Dec....
More Stories