How One Barbershop Owner is Encouraging Reading

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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I was in Manchester Public Schools last week chatting with Erin Ortega, Coordinator of Program Planning and Development. She described a program that is tentatively going to be launched right after the New Year: a local barber wants to inspire reading for the boys and young men that come into his shop.

This was originally by inspired by other programs in New York City (NYC’s “Barbershop Books” program) and in Ohio. The barbershop owner sat down with Erin and, together, they came up with their own plan.

Project Background and Description

Project Scope

The program will be offered to K-12 students. Older students will have the opportunity to bring their own pieces of writing to the barbershop to read during their cuts. Appropriate books will be researched, selected, and provided by the school system along with any other materials needed to effectively run the program. The barbershop will agree to honor the discounts proposed.


The program will include the following:

  • Word! Wednesdays: $5 off cuts for kids who read to their barber during their cut (barber to track).
  • Wisdom100: A free cut after kids read for 100 minutes to their barber. A maximum of 10 minutes can be earned at each individual visit to the barber, and a punch card is to be turned in to the barber at time of free cut.
  • Free haircuts at back-to-school events where kids participate and read to the barber during the event (vouchers to be offered if needed).
  • A free book to kids whose families sign up for a mailing list.
  • Opportunity to read to a parent or guardian in the waiting area of the barbershop.


  • Marketing materials (flyers, signs, digital)
  • Forms for free book
  • Punch card for tracking minutes (both paper and virtual)
  • Books for the shop with storage
  • Seating for children in the waiting area

Implementation Plan

  • Purchase supplies
  • Meet to briefly discuss roles and responsibilities
  • Begin offering services and collecting data
  • Manage data collected
  • Meet to discuss early outcomes and program additions/revisions

There are so many powerful, innovative ideas that can be acted upon to grow our students and our young citizens. Joint ownership of “expert” and “audience” makes programs like this one so appealing.

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