‘It takes a village;’ Union County school partners with barbershops to promote literacy

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 10:26 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

UNION, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - After taking note of low reading scores, staff at Foster Park Elementary in Union County came up with a unique approach to get kids reading. This initiative takes books out of the classroom and into the barber shop.

It’s a different approach—but staff says they’re already seeing kids engaged.

“You’re really a pillar when it comes to the community because children look up to me,” said Terrance ‘TJ’ Booker, owner of Tee-Jay’s Barber Shop.

Like many other barber shops, Tee-Jay’s is a place to sit, chat and of course, get a fresh cut. But now, through the sounds of conversation and the buzz of clippers, it’s also a place where kids can learn.

“So, instead of just having them watch TV, we let them read books,” said Booker.

‘Read while you wait’ is what they call the initiative. Statewide,  improving literacy has been a challenge. The problem starts with kids lacking necessary skills before kindergarten to underperforming at the high school level. This program gets all ages reading, by bringing books where they are.

“They look up to their barbers as role models. So I felt like, hey, if the barber tells the kids ‘baby, why are you here, put the phone down for a minute and read this book’-- they’ll do it,” said Dr. Fran M. Adams, the principal at Foster Park Elementary School.

A reading coach at the school brought the idea to Dr. Adams initially and the initiative began in October.

“I think it’s gonna bring our community and our students together and that’s what we really need,” said Tiffany Clayton, a 2nd grade teacher at Foster Park Elementary School.

Staff says already, the program has been a success.

“When they first saw the bookshelf in here that I got from Dr. Adams, they ran straight over to  it” said Booker.

From reading at the shop, Foster Park kids can receive points towards rewards at school, and Booker offers kids incentives for reading books too.

“Anything we can do to help and make it fun and interesting is always helpful,” said Melissa Inman, the Literacy Coach at Foster Park Elementary School.

The program won’t stop at Tee–Jay’s.

“There are barbershops from Jonesville all the way to Union, the east, west side of the county” said Dr. Adams.

They’ll expand the initiative---one book and one cut at a time. Beginning next week, Hardie’s Barber Shop and Salon in Union will join in the initiative and soon you might see bookshelves in other shops too.