Dubuque, IA has got a special, progressive barber doing good for the local kids. Courtney Holmes, a barbershop owner, has been challenging kids to read to him in exchange for a free haircut.
Holmes put up a station for the promotion at the neighborhood’s yearly “Back-to-School Bash” in Comiskey Park.
Books were also being given away by St. Mark Youth Enrichment; some books were offered to Holmes for his efforts. The barber made a point to help children pronounce new words as they read.
Caitlin Daniels, a reading coordinator who participated in the event said: “It’s great. All the kids, they want to have a good haircut to go back to school. They’re paying through reading.”
The efforts by barbers to promote literacy in their neighborhoods are a welcomed, growing trend. Long looked as a place for grooming and bonding among Black men, some barbers are using their social clout with their neighborhood to transform their business into places of learning for impressionable local children.
Reggie Ross, the owner of West Palm Beach’s Royal Touch Barbershop, replaced the TV and Internet in his business with literature. Ross saw an urgent need to promote educational efforts, as the city has a mere 50 percent graduation rate for Black male teens.
“The barbershop is based on men coming together, grooming each other to become better men, and I think books and education is a fundamental part of that,” Ross said. “I would love to see more graduation and education to reduce the violence and increase the economics of the community.”