Barbershops have a long-held tradition for being a gathering space, a place for neighbors and friends to hang out and chat about the local goings-on while getting their hair cut. More recently they have been used as a way to discuss men’s health issues and disparities. A barbershop in Ypsilanti, Michigan is gearing its efforts toward a different, yet equally noble and necessary cause: promoting literacy in children. Instead of fidgeting or playing their phones, more than 100 kids over the past year have read to their barbers at the Fuller Cut while getting a variety of haircuts. Barber Ryan Griffin read about a similar literacy program in Harlem, and he and the Fuller Cut quickly gained support for the idea through book donations from people in the area. The book collection has been curated to feature stories with black protagonists such as sports figures and detectives, a thoughtful and important way to help the boys identify with the books’ characters. In addition to getting practice reading aloud from their chosen selection, the boys answer questions about what they have read, improving their comprehension and ability to verbalize what they have understood. In return for their attempts at reading, the barbers give them a two dollar discount on their haircut, a gesture that makes families happy and will likely encourage them to continue doing business at the Fuller Cut. Griffin has high hopes for the long-term effects on the program, saying, “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.’ ”

+ The Fuller Cut on Instagram

via NPR

Lead image © Keith Jason