Books and barbers: Cutting hair, helping to create a culture of literacy

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 5, 2015

Since Charles White opened his barbershop on South Main Street in Salisbury 21 years ago, he’s been a listening ear and a gentle influencer to those who come through his doors.

“A barbershop isn’t just a place to get your hair cut. You can get a lot of information here,” White said.

His clients include those from all walks of life – from doctors, lawyers and teachers to young children.

“I like to talk to people and deal with people,” he said.

Not only does White get to know his clients, he learns about their passions, and more importantly, their needs.

When Anthony Johnson, a fifth-grade science teacher at Isenberg Elementary School, asked White if he could help tackle Rowan County’s literacy problem, White was immediately on board.

White plans to fill his waiting room with books for children to read.

“I get a hair cut every Saturday at White’s,” Johnson said. “If you go to White’s Barbershop, you’ll see there are a lot of kids there sitting to wait to get their hair cut.”

“I pitched the idea, and he loved it,” he added.

White said once he has the books, he plans to proactively encourage the children to read. He’d also like to see their parents read the books to them.

“A lot of kids come here,” he said.

The idea of reaching out to local barbershops originated with Rowan-Salisbury’s Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody, Johnson said, adding that she heard about another district that was asking local barbers to make sure they had books for students to read.

Johnson said at least two more barbers in the area had also agreed to include books in their waiting areas.

“Reading is a fundamental,” Johnson said.

Even his science classes have a heavy emphasis on reading.

“It’s very important,” he said.

He added that Rowan-Salisbury schools are focused on increasing the district’s literacy performance.

“We have a reading design coach in every elementary school,” he said.

Teachers are also receiving literacy training year-round.

“Books are really the gateway to the mind,” White said, adding that they can influence a child’s dreams, interests and even future career.

“Books carry a lot,” he said.