A Pennsylvania barbershop is encouraging kids to read and hone their public speaking skills by offering them cold, hard cash to read aloud during haircuts.
The staff at City Cuts Barbershop in Kutztown are not only committed to cutting hair, but also to helping children boost their self-esteem and confidence.
To that end, the shop had a program called Books by Kids, which offers children the chance to earn $3 by reading a book in front of others in the shop while getting a haircut.
Incredible! A barbershop in Kutztown, Pennsylvania offers a program called Books by Kids, which allows kids to earn money for reading books to their barber while getting their hair cut
Amazing! the owner of City Cuts Barbershop, Jon Escueta, 32, came up with the initiative in order to boost children’s confidence with reading in front of others
The program was started by the barber shop’s owner Jon Escueta, 32. Speaking to CNN, Jon said the initiative has been a roaring success since it was introduced to the barbershop.
Inspiration: Jon (pictured) immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines when he was eight years of age, with little to no English
He said: ‘Our goal is for the kids to boost their confidence in front of others without fear of being judged.’
Jon explained that the inspiration for setting up the reading program and helping children came from his own childhood experiences.
He explained that he emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines when he was eight years old, and didn’t yet know English.
‘I didn’t know English and that was a lot. I felt like I was being judged,’ Jon, who credits his aunt and uncle for improving his English skills, said.
Now, years later, the barber said he feels connected to the shy kids who come to him for a haircut, as he said he can relate to how they feel.
He said: ‘The ones who are timid — I gravitate toward those kids. I know what it feels like and try to make them feel good about themselves.’
His decision to use books to help boost their confidence was inspired by something an old teacher did for him.
Struggle: ‘I didn’t know English and that was a lot. I felt like I was being judged,’ Jon (R), who said he can now relate to ‘shy’ kids who don’t feel comfortable reading in front of others, said
Goal: Jon said the goal of the program is for children to build up their confidence by reading in front of others while getting a haircut
Recalling an incident he experienced when he was in the seventh grade, he said: ‘I told my reading teacher I didn’t like it [reading]. I liked basketball.’
As a result, his unnamed teacher gave him a book on the topic of basketball in order to encourage him to read.
As a result, Jon believes if kids can be comfortable reading to their barber, they will carry the confidence with them as they grow up.
The program is funded by customers and other locals who donate books and money to the shop.
Jon also set up a GoFundMe page in order to raise money for the initiative. Over the past three months, the page has raised a total of $4,296 of Jon’s $5,000 goal.
The page description reads: ‘Our goal is for kids to build their confidence by reading in front of others while getting a haircut.
‘Plus they will receive $3 for reading while in the chair. About 75 per cent of Adults fear Public Speaking.’
Although Jon’s idea was slowly taking off, it wasn’t until he uploaded a video on Facebook in October 2018 that he started earning widespread attention.
The now-viral video, which shows a barber cutting a young boy’s hair while he reads a book, has accumulated more than 13 million views and almost 200,000 shares.
Generous: The program is funded by customers at the barbershop and locals who donate books and money, as well as through a GoFundMe page
One Facebook user commented: ‘As a teacher, thank you for promoting literacy & speaking!!! So important! You’re amazing!!!!’
Another user wrote: ‘Oh I just want to give this barber a big old bear hug!!! What a great person! He’s making such a difference and seems to be really enjoying it! We need people like him in this world!’
‘Read this today online and I am beyond impressed and grateful to people like yourselves who impact this world, and especially children, in such a positive way,’ another user added.
She continued: ‘I am sure I share this sentiment with everyone who is familiar with your story, this is truly fantastic, what a benefit to every child who walks through your door!!!’
According to the National Social Anxiety Center, the fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported that public speaking anxiety, which is considered a social anxiety disorder, otherwise known as glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population.
Judgment or negative evaluation by others is reportedly the underlying fear.