Jozef Jason getting a haircut

Maybe the Best Place to Read Isn’t the Library, but the Barbershop

Fuller Cut, a barber shop in Ypsilanti, a small working class town outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, has a peculiar but wholesome discount. Kids get a $2 discount if they read a book aloud to their barber.


Jjozef Jason, a second grader, and his father Keith come to the barbershop to get a mohawk just in time for picture day. He wants to look good, of course. He chooses We’re Going On A Lion Hunt from a stack of books in the waiting room while his younger brother searches for his own book. The barber shop sees a lot of young black boys, and their reading selection reflects that with books featuring black role models, including baseball players and detectives.


Kids reading to their barbers

Image via NPR, Keith Jason


“Any help these kids can get with reading and … comprehension is a big thing. 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,'” said Ryan Griffin, a barber for over two decades, who brought the program to Ypsilanti. He first heard about a similar literacy program in Harlem, New York and asked his boss if they could replicate it. Except at Fuller Cut, it’s not just about reading out loud. The kids get quizzed by their barber to make sure they understand what they’re reading. 


Similar programs have popped up all over the United States, from Houston to Dubuque, Iowa, to Columbus, Ohio. “We get complimented by teachers that will say it does so much for these kids throughout the school year,” says Griffin.


Over a hundred kids have read to the Ypsilanti barbers in the past year, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing down any time soon.

Featured Image Via Keith Jason.