Real Men Read Storytime and Mentoring, Winner of the 2012 Innovations in Reading Prize

The Real Men Read Storytime and Mentoring program was created and developed in September 2007 by Inger Upchurch, manager of Cornelia Crenshaw Memorial Library, one of eighteen branches of the Memphis Public Library and Information Center in Memphis, Tennessee. The program targets children between the ages of three and five who are enrolled in urban child care centers in Memphis, and is designed to engage these children in the joy and excitement of reading with the goal of helping them become lifelong readers. Real Men Read is also designed to foster positive self-esteem in African-American children. African-American men from both blue- and white-collar professions read to the children and serve as positive role models and mentors.

Initially, from 2007 to 2008, the program consisted of two librarians who rotated every other month, with one of four guest readers visiting four child care centers and reaching thirty to fifty children. Today, the program has grown by leaps and bounds. Two librarians still facilitate the program, but now each librarian goes out weekly with one of twenty-five guest readers, visiting seven child care centers twice a week and reaching 160 to 257 children a month.