At four years old, Dallas Jones isn’t reading magazines as he waits for his father to finish work for the day in a Compton Barbershop. He’s reading children’s books from a small reading space in the waiting area.
“Looking over and seeing him actually interested in a book, not necessarily mind-blowing but kind of a proud moment,” Dallas’ father, D'Isaac Jones said.
Dallas spends time at the VIP Barber Shop where his dad works almost every day after school. It’s an experience Jones likes to see.
“I don’t mind him hanging out in here because it’s the barbershop. It’s a guy thing,” Jones said.
But, he still needed something productive for Dallas to do while he’s working. That’s when the shop connected with Barbershop Books, a nonprofit that brings in a mini library to barbershops where African-American boys ages four to eight like Dallas would be.
According to a CalMatters report based on the Department of Education’s data, three out of four African-American boys in California aren’t able to read at the state’s standard level.
Malik Rogers is with the Los Angeles County of Public Libraries. He said the reading program is helping to change that.
“To see them engage with a book is such a unique thing because a lot of the time the narrative is that they don’t read or they can’t read or that they don’t enjoy reading. But to see them pick it up, it defeats that narrative,” Rogers said.
Having the books handy helps Jones spend quality time reading to his son while he waits for his next client. But Dallas and his father aren’t the only ones who read in the barbershop.
Jones said more and more children are picking up books on their own.
“The kids that actually know how to read, they want to go over there and prove that they know how to read. So, it’s like an ego thing with them and then the little kids generally follow,” Jones said.
Jones said it’s a small step to show Dallas how to be an avid reader and spend time together in a place where they can connect as father and son.