- September 3, 2021
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FRAMINGHAM — Tufts of hair collected on the ground, as Xavier Lee, 7, dove into the most recent book he read — Christine Platt’s “Ana & Andrew: A Day at the Museum” — from the barber’s chair.
“Did you like it?” barber Enoc Cruzado asked, as Xavier nodded. “What did they learn at the museum?”
When kids get their hair cut by Cruzado at Farm Pond Park, it’s free — as long as they talk with him about a book they read.
Dubbed “Next Chapter Cuts,” the idea was born when Cruzado worked as a staff member in the district’s before- and after-school care program called Explorers, run by the School Department’s Office of Community Resource Development.
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At the time, he was pursuing his barber’s license. He and the department’s director, Tiffany Lillie, dreamed up the initiative as a way to excite kids about reading with the incentive of a free haircut.
Kids have requested everything from buzz cuts to fades to a tapered haircut, like Xavier. When they arrive at the park, Cruzado peppers them with open-ended questions to guide the conversation and get kids to open up.
“We want to keep it freestyle and make sure they’re not just saying they read a book but really reflecting on it,” said Amanda Lloyd, an out-of-school time coordinator at King Elementary School who spearheaded the initiative.
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According to a whiteboard set up at Farm Pond, students have read books such as “Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” by Carol McCloud or titles from the Elephant and Piggie series.
Another popular author is Nic Stone, a young adult and middle school fiction writer best known for her debut novel, “Dear Martin.” She is expected to do a virtual visit with Framingham high school juniors in October.
“Most of the kids love what they read and learn a lot. They really paint the picture well,” said Cruzado.
About 45 students — from rising kindergartners to high school students — are receiving free haircuts this summer.
While kids wait for their siblings to be done with their haircuts or other children stand by for their turn in the chair, out of school time employee Cameron VanBuskirk is on hand to keep them entertained and learning.
That might include scavenger hunts with new vocabulary words or a game of Scrabble.
“It’s just about creating ways to embrace reading,” said VanBuskirk.
Lloyd said she’s been surprised by how excited students have been to talk with Cruzado, who is now a barber at Clipto Mania on Concord Street in Framingham.
“It shows that need for human interaction that we missed during the pandemic,” said Lloyd.
Haircuts are held outside at Farm Pond Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.
If families are interested, they can register for the lottery process. Appointments are not guaranteed. This program will run until mid-August, although Lloyd said it is likely to continue throughout the school year.
The form to register is available on the district website.
Zane Razzaq writes about education. Reach her at 508-626-3919 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @zanerazz.