Marianna Sorensen

Turning Over a New Page: How Barbershops Are Helping Kids Read

Marianna Sorensen

We’ve all been bored when we were little as we sat in that chair getting our hair cut. All we could do was worry about what we might look like when it was done. Barbers across the country have found a way to resolve this boredom and also have a positive effect on literacy—having children read aloud while getting their hair cut. Ryan Griffin, a Michigan barber, heard of this happening across the country and asked his boss, Alex Fuller, if they could introduce a similar program at the shop where they work.

At the Fuller Cut barbershop, kids get a two dollar discount if they read aloud as Griffin and the other barbers cut their hair. The shop even provides the books for the children to read. This may seem small but it has made ripples beyond its city of Ypsilanti, Michigan.

This program has gotten a lot of attention throughout the community and across the country. Many people who have heard of the Fuller Cut’s story have sent the shop books to add to its library. In addition to books, sometimes donors also send along money, ranging from 20 to 250 dollars. Griffin and Fuller plan on eventually giving the donated money to teachers. The Fuller Cut has helped more than just a few kids; more than 100 kids have been reading there over the past year.

The majority of the Fuller Cut’s customers are young African American boys from the community, so the shop makes sure their reading options are inclusive and relatable to the readers. The Fuller Cut library includes inspirational fiction options about young African American characters and nonfiction options about well-known African American role models like Barack Obama and Duke Ellington. The goal is not just to have kids read, but also to make it enjoyable for them. Griffin wants to make sure to track the progress of the kids who come, so he has them pick the same book each time they come in until they complete it.

Some kids feel the way I used to when I was little—terrified to read aloud in front of an audience. Griffin works with these readers and says they become more comfortable over time. As someone who was once far too shy to read in front of that many people, this impresses me the most about the Fuller Cut’s program. Not only do the kids get a two-dollar refund and some reading practice, but they are also able to feel comfortable with their own skills and in front of others, all with the support of their community behind them.

Did You Know?
The National Center for Education Statistics has reported that children who are read to frequently are more likely to count to 20 or higher and write their own names than those who are not.

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