Why an Iowa barber gives free haircuts

Barber Courtney Holmes gave free haircuts to children who read books to him on Saturday during the second annual Back to School Bash in Dubuque, Iowa.

David Pike/Valley Morning Star via AP/File
Children listen to a story being read at a reading stations set up around Lon C Hill Park in Harlingen, Texas, on June 18, 2015.

As the new school year is getting closer, a barber in Iowa has come up with a creative way to encourage reading among children.

Courtney Holmes gave free haircuts to children who read books to him on Saturday during the second annual Back to School Bash in Comiskey park in Dubuque. "I just want to support kids reading," Mr. Holmes told the Associated Press.

During the event, St. Mark Youth Enrichment organization gave away books, and Caitlin Daniels, grade-level reading coordinator with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, helped struggling readers in the barber chair.

"It's great. All the kids, they want to have a good haircut to go back to school," she said. "They're paying through reading."

As the digital era offers more visual distractions to reading, getting children and students to read has been a struggle.

In May 2014, Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization in San Francisco, released research that indicates the daily reading drops from childhood to teenage years. According to the study, the percentage of 6- to 8-year-old daily readers dropped from 38 percent to 24 percent when children reach age 15- to 17-years old..

In 1984, 70 percent of 13-year-olds and 64 percent of 17-year-olds were weekly readers, but by 2014 the percentages had dropped to 53 percent and 40 percent, respectively, according to the report.

Schools, communities and parents are looking at new ways to encourage reading. 

In June, Reuters reported that this summer some Sacramento, Calif.-area hospital and health clinics, crisis nurseries and community-based organizations are setting up reading stations and accepting donations of children’s books to encourage reading.

Besides community-based initiatives, studies have shown that parents play a critical role in their children's reading levels.

One landmark study showed that the vocabulary of the children of professionals was 1,116 words by age 3. The same aged children of working class and welfare parents, showed vocabularies of 749 and 525, respectively.

The Children’s Reading Foundation says that parents who read with their children 20 minutes a day, help them reach their full potential, finding success in school.

And for school-age kids, the Reading Rockets website suggests parents and children read together:

Nearly every suggestion sent in by our tip-sters had this message at its core. Whether snuggled under the covers with peanut-butter sandwiches, or following along with a book on tape while on a road trip, reading together is a powerful tool in motivating your child to read.

More4Kids website says parents can encourage their children to read to them bedtime stories, and as their children read, they can ask them questions about the pictures and concepts covered in the story periodically. The website also suggests parents to ask children to physically act out the story they are reading.

And using puppets is another motivation, the website notes: “Remember those puppets that you used to entertain your child when they were younger? Pull them out. Have your child read you a couple of their favorite stories... This will not only help in reading, but also comprehension, identifying dialogue, and several other aspects such as vocabulary extension and concentration.”

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