Two-thirds of Philly kids can’t read at grade level. Can a library in a barbershop change that?
Leroy’s Barbershop on Lancaster Avenue has all the trappings of a neighborhood gathering spot: a cozy, neat room, a narrow line of chairs with folks waiting for their turn for a shape up or a fade, a steady, low hum of conversation — and an overflowing bookshelf that serves as a de facto children’s library.
Two-thirds of all Philadelphia third graders cannot read at grade level, a marker that researchers say can be a make-or-break for whether students succeed in school make it to twelfth grade graduation. For the past three years, an early literacy effort known as Read by 4th has aimed to change that, with over 100 philanthropic organizations and partners large and small pouring tens of millions into a citywide effort to double the number of kids who hit that mark by the beginning of fourth grade.
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