Local barber shop helping to improve reading skills with kids in the community
By Chanel Stitt
Open the red door and walk into 307 Ecorse Rd., there is more than just a barber shop inside; two kids in chairs read aloud from donated books.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” one of the children read a book about Frederick Douglass as they sat for their $ 11 haircut.
As the barbers snip away, the children read aloud and answer questions about their chosen books, gaining self confidence and experience speaking in front of others.
An Ypsilanti barber shop, Fuller Cut, has been conducting the Read to Your Barber Program for ages up to 12 years old.
Fuller Cut barbers, Alex Fuller and Ryan Griffin decided to start this program after reading an article about three other barbershops that were doing the same idea. They have been doing the program since August 2015, making an impact in young children’s lives.
With the media not notified about this program until a year later, a reporter from Channel 4 News claimed they were legitimately trying to be involved with the community.
Washtenaw County’s illiteracy rate ranges up to 11.6 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2003.
“Kids come in [the shop] that are lagging behind in their reading skills, so he felt the obligation to set this program fourth,” Fuller said about Griffin.
The barbers have noticed improvement in the reading skills as kids come into the shop regularly. Some kids are reading below grade level and Fuller Cut’s goal is to make them feel comfortable to be able to read in front of the class and read proficiently.
“We look for them being more comfortable, focused, able to articulate and comprehend what they’re reading,” said Fuller.
The incentive for reading is either giving a child $2, or taking $2 off of their haircut in the end.
Fuller explained that the reading program idea came to the shop at the right time. Things had started to change in the shop, then the program went viral. Read to Your Barber became a local news story, then reached international news in Australia.
There have been new customers, some with books in their hands ready to begin reading during their turn. They have also gotten many large donations of books. Fuller Cut is willing to provide a bookshelf and books to any shop that wants to start the program as well.
Based on negative events happening in the country, such as police shootings and hate crimes, the books that these kids read talk about positive role models and good things that people have done. The clientele of the barber shop is about 85 percent African American and it is important to Fuller Cut barbers to show that there are many positive things in the black community.
“I think that this program is a good addition to the shop, and to the community,” said Shawn Lewis, a customer at Fuller Cut.
Kids end up asking questions while they are reading and have positive reactions during their reading experiences. When the kid is done reading, they are given a pop quiz to make sure comprehension had taken place the barbers mentioned.
In the WCC Child Care Center, reading skills, are among the skills being taught to the preschool students that attend.
“Helping children gain the skills needed to become good readers enables them to succeed in future academic pursuits,” said Trudi Hagen, the director of the Family Education Building.
Fuller has called this a “reading revolution” within the community to further education in kid’s lives. If a child connects to a book and there was a duplicate available, Fuller Cut has given these kids the book. This experience has impacted the barber shop in a great way.
Fuller Cut services all hair types and textures, they are located on Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti, Michigan.