ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Going to get a haircut has become a pathway to adventure for children at one St. Pete barbershop. The barber is giving away free books and haircuts every Wednesday afternoon.
“Having a child come into the barbershop and being able to talk to them about reading and school and education is very important to me,” said Antonio Brown, barber.
Brown was born and raised in St. Pete and is now the owner of Central Station Barbershop and Grooming. He said he wants to do more than cut hair, he wants to inspire.
“Just having that opportunity to see the expression on their face when they do read something that’s new to them,” said Brown. “I can’t really explain it, every time it happens I get these goosebumps.”
Every Wednesday afternoon, Brown offers children a free haircut, and while they are in the chair, they read a new book to him. When finished, they’ll discuss what it’s about.
“Its something to help promote reading, which is fundamental and something that these children need,” said Brown. “You know overcome some of those self-esteem issues, confidence issues, when they are picking up a book and reading in front of people and their peers.”
Brown realizes during the pandemic families might not have the extra income to buy new books, so he has been collecting hundreds of them through donations. After every haircut, the child gets to take one home.
“Once kids start reading in here it becomes more of a habit when they get home,” said Brown.
“My son and my daughter have their favorite books now, and they read close to an hour a day, so it’s very beneficial to them and I’m very proud of my kids,” said parent James Green.
Green said it just goes to show a role model can come from any corner of the community.
“And hopefully the kids will come back and say, ‘hey Mr. Brown you taught me some of those words, some of those definitions, you really pushed me to get better at reading,'” said Brown.
New this fall, Brown is also asking children to write him an essay about the books they read and in return, they will receive a gift card.
To make a haircut appointment go to www.booksy.com and type in Central Station Barber Shop and Grooming.