Parents are always trying to encourage their kids to read more, and it turns out they can find an unlikely ally in certain local barbershops.
Fuller Cut, near Ann Arbor, Michigan, is one of those barbershops. It gives a $2 discount on haircuts if kids read books out loud to their barbers. When they finish reading, barbers quiz them to make sure they understand what they read, according to NPR.
“It’s an amazing thing,” said Keith Jason, a parent who takes his son to the shop. “It’s helping my pockets, it’s helping their education and it’s helping prepare a better future for them, so I love it.”
Fuller Cut isn’t alone in offering the discount. There are also shop offering discounted or free haircuts to reading kids in Dubuque, Iowa, Columbus, Ohio and Houston.
It started at Fuller Cut because barber Ryan Griffin read about a similar program in Harlem and asked his boss if they could do it, too. Within weeks the shop was getting donated books, according to NPR. Griffin said they get compliments from teachers who say it really helps kids’ reading comprehension.
“Any help these kids can get with reading and … comprehension is a big thing,” Griffin said. “You know, maybe someday some kid will grow up and be a journalist, be a writer, and he’ll say, ‘You know what, when I was young, my barber used to make me read.’”
Child literacy has seen better days. The National Assessment of Education Progress found 38 percent of fourth-grade children nationwide were below the most basic level for reading skills. Only 7 percent were advanced and 31 percent were proficient.
Fuller Cut also tries to tailor its book selection to its clientele, which is made up largely of black boys. So many of their titles are centered on black baseball players and black kid detectives.
More than a hundred kids have read to their barbers at Fuller Cut over the past year, and some are more willing than others. When Jason took his 7-year-old son in for a cut, he prodded his son to pick out a book before getting into the chair, according to NPR.
“Hey bud, pick out a book that’s gonna challenge you, nothing too easy,” Jason said. “Alright?”