Some kids in Fort Worth are getting a little bonus with their haircuts — a chance to read with their barbers. It’s part of a new effort by the city’s schools to place books inside barber shops and encourage barbers to dive into them with their pint-sized patrons.
Roger Foggle has simple instructions for his youngest customers at Millennium Cuts: Go to the bookshelf in the corner and grab a book before you sit in his chair.
“You can’t just come over here and lollygag,” Foggle says. “No, you gonna come over here. You gonna read over here. … I love it.”
Foggle’s barber shop is one of nine in the Fort Worth school district’s Reading with Barbers initiative. The barber shops are near schools where students struggle with reading.
‘We could push them’
“A lot of children, they’re not confident in reading,” Foggle says. “And we felt like by them coming to the barber shop every week, seeing us all the time, we could push them.”
Sherry Breed, the school district’s chief of equity and excellence, got the idea to put books in barber shops while attending an education conference. Similar reading efforts are taking root in barber shops across the country.
Breed said this initiative could help the district with its goal to have 100 percent of students reading at or above grade level by 2025. She said barber shops are a good spot to promote literacy.
“Usually there’s a lot of conversation taking place, and it’s [a] well-known safe place for the community,” she says. “They know the barbers there. So we thought, ‘Why not have these adults serve as mentors and talk about the importance of literacy and reading?’ ”
Over the summer, the barbers met with Breed to learn how they can help their young clients improve their reading skills.
“When they get in the chair with the barber, then they would ask them questions,” Breed says, “such as, ‘Tell me a little bit about the book? What did you like about it? Who was your favorite character? Would you like to read more books by this particular author?’”
‘We’re just reading’
Back at Millennium Cuts, fifth-grader Terick Jackson sits on a chair and reads out loud. Terick often hangs out here after school, and he usually has a book in his hands. Today, it’s “The Case of the Missing Trophy.”
“Stra — stra — strange, momma? This word is strange, ain’t it?”
“Yes, strange,” Terick’s mom, Tonya Hardy, answers. She’s a barber here.
“Strange man in the cowboy hat,” Terick continues.
Hardy says she loves having books inside the shop because they keep her son entertained.
“He sits down a lot more now,” she says as she cut a customer’s hair. “He’ll sit here and read to Roger all the time.”
Roger Foggle is so enthusiastic about the effort that he posts videos of his reading sessions on his Facebook page. In one clip, a high school student sits in a chair as Foggle combs the kid’s hair and listens to him read.
“Slow down. Why you trying to read so fast?” Foggle asks the student. “We’re not in a race. We’re just reading.”
A coach – for readers
The barker tells the kid to hold the book with both hands, that he wants him to understand what he’s reading.
Foggle is like a coach – a coach for readers.
“You know how you get out on the football field? You play running back right? Every time you get the ball, you confident you’re gonna take that thing to the house,” he says. “Nobody can beat me. That’s the same confidence I need you to have when you’re reading this book. All right?”
Foggle doesn’t just want kids to read with confidence. He wants them to be confident about reading.
“A lot of times, a lot of their peers feel like, ‘Well, if you’re educated, if you’re smart, uh, you’re a square.’ And they do a lot of name-calling,” Foggle says. “That’s when a lot of the bullying comes along and that’s why a lot of kids don’t want you to know that they’re very intelligent.”