Two Southeast Michigan Reading Programs for Kids

Read to a Barber

When Ryan Griffin heard about barbers in Florida and Iowa who clip while their young clients read aloud, he booked the concept closer to home. He and Alex Fuller, owner of The Fuller Cut in Ypsilanti, encourage youngsters to grab a book from their shelves before climbing into the chair.

“Even 2-year-olds hold open a book and say ‘toes’ or ‘dog’ or ‘brown’ or ‘blue.’ Some clients may be 15, but reading at a sixth-grade level, and that’s OK,” Griffin says. “If they don’t feel like reading, we just say, ‘OK, it’s here for you, and next time you can read.'” For their efforts, kids get $2 for their pockets.

Titles feature influential people of color to fight the media “image battle” and balance out class lessons. “The (school) narrative is all about Dr. King and civil rights and the bus in Montgomery. There’s a lot more to our history. Kids need stories that are reflective of black scientists, geologists, doctors they’ve never heard of,” Griffin says, noting books allow kids to develop their own visuals. Girls, too, wait for brothers and dads by reading in the lobby.

“Read to a Barber” has garnered national attention recently, with donations of books and money pouring in. “I took a lot of books to other barbershops around the city. We supplied them with bookshelves and stocked them,” Griffin says.

Both agree reading is time well spent. “For that 15 minutes, we are interacting with kids and they feel great about it. Once they finish, they have to explain what the book is about as they get out of the chair,” Fuller says. “It’s been a good thing.”

The Fuller Cut

Brown Girls Read

Literacy, face time, social skills and old-fashioned page turning all come together the third Saturday of each month at Northwest Activities Center of Detroit. That’s where Tamela Todd, a Redford mom of three, hosts Brown Girls Read.

What started in March as a book club now has themed meetings that explore community awareness, entrepreneurship, goal setting and even etiquette.

“Our first meeting was five girls, and I let them pick the book,” Todd says. “We talked about the roles of the author, the illustrator, the publisher. They were excited and the feedback was, ‘Are we going to do this again and if so can I bring my cousin?'” Now 45 members strong, Brown Girls Read promotes age-appropriate topics for ages 7-9, 10-12 and 13-15.

Todd, a medical technician, hopes to expand the club to Detroit’s east side and establish support through Detroit Public Schools, afterschool programs and book clubs.

Join the Club


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