Your local barbershop probably consists of televisions broadcasting ESPN, animated banter on almost any subject and music to match the vibe of the shop. The only literature you would expect to find is a magazine. A Palm Beach County, Fla., barbershop is altering this traditional view of barbershops by taking away the TVs and radios and adding a library of books.
Reggie Ross, the owner of Royal Touch Barbershop, is promoting literacy by asking his young customers to read one of the books he provides while they wait to get their hair cut. Ross extends the option for children to continue reading the book during their haircut. He even asks them to read aloud to him and sparks discussions with them about the book.
According to a South Florida Times reporter, Juan Diasgranados, Ross began this initiative to dispel the negative stereotype that black men don’t read. He began bringing books from his home into the shop and has expanded his shop’s library ever since.
“I’m very selective about the books here,” the 35-year-old shop owner told the Times. “We emphasize culture and broadening their horizons—books that are going to help them to get ahead in life.”
In Palm Beach County, where the graduation rate is reportedly at 50 percent, Ross hopes that his initiative can have an impact on education and violence statistics. “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,” he told WPTV in an interview.
If kids want to watch a movie or listen to music, they have the option to do so—only if they can provide the definition of an assigned vocabulary word in exchange.
“I tell them the reason they fight is because they don’t have enough words [to express themselves]. If you talk to some of these kids, they’re some of the brightest kids that ever lived. Some of them are just not exposed to much,” Ross told the Times.
Ross’ efforts seem to be paying off, with kids telling WPTV that they come out of the shop more knowledgeable.
“I come here to read and improve my knowledge; there’s just so many books here,” customer Kane Roberts said.