University City

Group tries to get people hooked on books

While families were shopping for back-to-school items last weekend, some kids were also enriching their education and learning about community service.

On Aug. 6, Azeal Barbershop off Mallard Creek Church Road got a new addition: a reading nook filled with children's books. This collection is part of a reading initiative spearheaded locally by the Charlotte chapter of Mocha Moms.

Mocha Moms is a support network for mothers of color, most of whom are stay-at-home mothers, to help better their families and the community. The support group is a national organization started in Maryland with three chapters in North Carolina. Charlotte's chapter, the biggest in the state at 49 members, was founded in 1997.

"Every year nationally Mocha Moms has about 12 charities that we have to impact within our communities," says Thasha Glenn, community service chair for the Charlotte chapter. The reading initiatives, called "Boys Booked on Barbershops" and "Girls Booked on Beauty Parlors," works with local barbershops and beauty salons to create an area with books for kids to read while they are waiting.

The initiative was started nationally by Mocha Moms two years ago, and each year Mocha Moms of Charlotte participate. "Last year, we did a Girls Booked in Beauty Parlors (event)," said Glenn.

This year's event was sponsored by local businesses, which donated items and space, including Met Life, Above Grade Level in-Home Tutoring Service and Azeal Barbershop. Guest speakers were author Daniel Patterson and NBA New Jersey Nets Guard Anthony Morrow.

"I know it sounds cliché, but reading really is fundamental," said Morrow. At the event, he read "The Snowy Day," by Ezra Jack Keats to the audience of children and their parents, then answered questions and gave autographs.

"My mother always made sure I was reading," said Morrow, a Charlotte native who attended Charlotte Latin School. "I want to keep that tradition going for my kid."

Tommy Lee Hayes-Brown agrees. "The overall platform is to get kids to read. Instead of turning on video games, they have a selection of books to read. As a father of four, that is very important to me."

Hayes-Brown and James Finger of Met Life helped sponsor the event by donating the bookshelves and some books. "This is what we used to do (in our communities) ... have grassroots efforts (such as this)," said Hayes-Brown.

"In the black community, it's really important to ... have a positive image of the African-American man," said author Patterson. His children's book, "Sunday Morning with Dad," gives children an image of an African-American dad who is engaged with his children.

"I think that another way we can (show) African-American fathers and husbands in a good light is by getting out books (such as) this."