When young boys walk into Toby Stewart's barbershop this weekend, they'll get more than a haircut.
Like always, the boys will talk with Stewart and the other men at the shop — about sports, about the neighborhood's comings and goings — just the typical Saturday morning banter when they get their fade.
They'll also get a chance to read.
The Kant Be Faded barbershop on Ayers Street is one of two locations in Corpus Christi participating in the Barbershop Books Reading Program. The program is hosted by the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education (TABPHE) and the locations in Corpus Christi will be Texas' first, officials said.
Children ages 4 to 8 will have the chance to grab a book and read it to their barber while getting a haircut.
Stewart, who has owned the shop for about nine years, said he and the other eight barbers are looking forward to encouraging the children to read and pursue an education.
"Teachers have a lasting and positive impact, and now (the barbers) will be able to help the children, too," Stewart said. "We want to do what we can to help the children in this community and make a lasting positive impact."
The Barbershop Books program is a nonprofit organization created by Alvin Irby from New York City. The program tries to provide a safe reading space in barbershops nationwide for African-American young boys. The program will encourage reading during the summer and after school hours, increasing positive self-perception, male engagement and student achievement, officials said.
"After we heard about this, we wanted to immediately sign up to sponsor reading spaces here," TABPHE vice president of public relations Tina Butler said. "This will encourage the children to read, and it will give them that male engagement that some don't get at home."
RJ's Hair Tech barbershop, also on Ayers Street, will be the other location with a bookshelf for the children. Gary Holt has been a barber for about 40 years, has seen children come by to get a cut, has seen them grow and has seen them leave Corpus Christi.
He said this is the first time he'll get to tap into his customer's education.
"They come to the barbershop and the conversation is always about life, their friends, their girlfriends. It's never about school and their grades," Holt said. "With this, we'll get to ask how they are doing in school, and it's a wonderful thing to be part of that."
The group plans to expand the reading program to more barbershops after fundraising efforts are met to purchase books.
"We'd like to have several book options for the children and be able interchange the books throughout the summer," Butler said.
A fundraiser dance is planned for Friday at the Galvan Ballroom, and the Barbershop Books Reading Program kickoff is set for Saturday also in observance of Juneteenth.