McDONOUGH— A McDonough barbershop has united behind the “Real Dads Read” initiative headed by nonprofits Fathers Incorporated and Furthering Fatherhood in efforts to encourage reading among men and their sons.

5 Star Salon and Barbershop located at 106 Willow Lane in McDonough, is one of 12 barbershops in the metro Atlanta region to participate in the program, which aims to engage fathers and other male role models in reading with their elementary and middle school-aged children.

A book station has been installed at the McDonough business since the program’s March 18 roll out.

“A lot of dads may not live with their child, but the mother will allow them to come out on weekends to take their kids to go get a haircut, so we thought this would be a win-win,” said Furthering Fatherhood CEO Lamont Jones, a McDonough resident of three years. “You can use this bonding moment that you would normally do at night, you can do it during the day.”

Jones said the organization’s goal is to have the book station setup in 25 locations before the summer.

“All we want to do is have these books accessible for our kids to continue to have a love for reading,” said Jones. “If they’re reading regularly, their test scores will go up, and it’s a bonding moment for the father and a child. We also get a lot of single mothers that come in, and we ask them to come get a book and read to them.”

The books were purchased through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with assistance from partner First Book, a U.S. nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide disadvantaged children with new books.

“We try to get culturally sensitive books so our kids can identify with the characters,” said Jones. “The child can do one of three things — read the book here, take the book home and return it, or take the book home and never return it.”

After canvasing several local barbershops, Jones said many of the owners weren’t receptive to allowing the book station in their shops. But 5 Star Salon and Barbershop wanted in.

Owner Kelsey Releford said he supports the initiative as he sees its need and direct benefits.

“I believe that this connects an opportunity for fathers to continue to connect with their kids,” said Releford. “A lot of times with busy work schedules they don’t have time and it’s not that they don’t want to, but some just don’t have time. But here it seizes an opportunity to actually spend time with their kids and build memories and a lasting bond. I think this helps.”

To his surprise, Releford said the books have not just caught the attention of his younger patrons, but even young adults.

“Not only have I noticed little kids doing it, but I’ve also seen young adults in their 20s, men in their teens, and that’s surprised me the most… not just little kids, but everyone is taking an opportunity to read,” said Releford.

“I’ve seen the kids liking the books so much that they take them with them and that’s something we encourage them to do sometimes,” Releford continued. “We also encourage everyone to participate and bring a book with them so there’s a system to help us replenish what we lose.”

If a barbershop would like to be part of “Real Dads Read,” call the Furthering Fatherhood office at 770-804-9800.

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