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Checking Back In On The Barber Who Encourages Kids To Read

Listen to the Story

Jozef Jason, 7, reads a book to Ryan Griffin at the Fuller Cut in Ypsilanti, Mich., as part of the barbershop's literacy program.

It has been a crazy few days for Ryan Griffin, the guy behind the Read-to-a-Barber program we wrote about on the NPR Ed blog last week. He says the phone at The Fuller Cut in Ypsilanti, Mich., has been ringing nonstop since the story ran.

Calls of support, yes, but also calls from reporters in Australia, England, Germany and pretty much every major market in the U.S. The story has been picked up by CBS News, ABC News and The Huffington Post, just to name a few.

So I dropped by the barbershop Tuesday to check in on Griffin and see what, if anything, has changed.

The answer? Mail. We're talking tons and tons of mail. Before the story aired, they'd get the occasional book donation from someone local. But now, "We are literally getting boxes from Florida, Oregon, Washington, Maine, California," says Griffin, "and letters as well."

A lot of the letters are from teachers and librarians who emphasize how valuable those 15 minutes of reading in the barber chair are for kids. But wait, there's more. "I'm really starting to notice that we're getting a lot of feedback from people who, at a young age, had trouble reading," and who say they would have benefited from books in the barbershop when they were young.

Some of the letters have money tucked inside, everything from $20 to $250. Griffin says one guy just walked up to Fuller Cut owner, Alex Fuller, and gave him a handful of cash as a donation.

Fuller and Griffin don't know exactly how they're going to spend the money, just that they want to spend it on teachers in Ypsilanti. So they're looking for some advice — from teachers, specifically.

"I would like for a teacher or former teacher to say, 'Hey, when I was teaching, this made my day go by easier,' or 'I have these certain kids who can use ... ' " He says they want to show their appreciation for everything teachers do to help young black kids succeed in the classroom.

Oh, and one more thing. Griffin says they're good on books at this point. (Thank you for all of the donations!) So he has this suggestion: Take care of your local barbershop.

"If everybody took one book — one book — to their barbershop this Saturday and said, 'Hey, I'm gonna leave this book here just in case you want kids to read,' then you've done the same thing I did," says Griffin. You've made books available for the next young mind to discover.

Copyright 2016 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

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