One particular barbershop in Michigan offers more than just a fresh cut - kids can receive lessons in reading, in African-American history and in self-confidence.
For a year, the Fuller Cut barbershop in Ypsilanti, Michigan, outside of Ann Arbor, has been offering a Read to a Barber program. The deal is simple: The child reads to the barber and he gets $2 off his cut. The catch: He also has to explain what he’s read and answer some questions from the barber or his caretaker, reporting ABC news.
“It really has taken off, better than expected,” said Fuller Cut owner Alex Fuller. “It’s hard to explain when you see these kids reading, learning about, you know, African-American heroes, and just seeing their faces light up — and I think the money’s a good incentive too.”
Fuller, born and raised in Ypsilanti, has owned Fuller Cut since 2002. It was Ryan Griffin, another barber at the shop, who came to Fuller with the idea. Griffin said that he’d gotten inspired after reading about some barbers doing a similar program in Harlem, New York; Tampa, Florida; and Iowa.
“The first thing that came to my head was, ‘That’s responsible!’ … I just realized that was so responsible,” Griffin said. “That’s how a barbershop can become a pillar of the community.”
He said the idea seemed like an easy task to pull off, so he brought it to Fuller, whose reaction was, “Let’s get some bookshelves!”
“I went down to the thrift store, found two shelves, two shelves for $10 bucks, spray-painted them, you know. Got my wife involved. She was excited. She made some posters and the kids, it’s just been great,” Fuller said.
Griffin said the first books came straight from his home.
Keith Jason told ABC News recently that his son, second-grader Joseph Jason, 7, had been coming to Fuller for about five or six months.
“My wife and I are both very committed to education,” Jason said. “My wife is an elementary school teacher, by trade, and I work for the University of Michigan and so we just absolutely love the vision and what they’ve got going on here.”
Jason said that although Joseph did not like to read a lot, at times, the program had helped nudge that desire along.
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“The incentive that the reading here provides and the friendly environment and the support that they get while they’re trying to read — and getting their hair cut at the same time — I think helps them enjoy the process a lot more,” Jason said. “I mean, my son has come a long way with his reading. … When he tests at school, his scores are up.”
Griffin said he hoped that other barbershops adopted the program across the U.S. He said the program was not just about reading, but about teaching comprehension, building vocabulary and providing an environment for children to read without fear.
“The objective is to have every kid in the city to have a book in their hand. … We want kids to think it’s cool to read,” Griffin said. “Sometimes you have to do out-of-the-box things to get kids to be productive. … It’s going great.”