KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Reading is a crucial part of life. But not everyone is fully confident in their reading abilities. One woman in Knoxville is trying to change that. Mike Witcher shares her story in this week's Pay it Forward.

People describe Goldie Littlejohn as a community leader. And she's passionate about improving reading levels in her community. 

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"When you look at the statistics of African-American boys and their reading levels, they are not always in their favor," she said. 

So, she decided to do something about it. 

"Goldie Littlejohn came to me with this idea of a little reading corner for the barber shop", owner Gary Gamble of Gam's Barbershop said.

Gam's Barbershop has been in business in the heart of Knoxville's Mechanicsville neighborhood for 24 years. 

Why Gam's?

"Knowing that the barber shop is culturally relevant in the African-American community, and it's a place where boys, if every week or every other week are coming into a barber shop spending time, it allows them to identify as readers early," Littlejohn said. "And the goal is to encourage young kids to understand how important reading really is."

For Gamble, reading wasn't something that always came easy. 

"I figured out later on how important reading was, and I know there are boys that think the same thing," he said.

So, when Littlejohn approached him with the idea, he was excited about it.

Littlejohn hopes to pass on the same message to other little boys that she tells her own son.

"I tell my son Golden, who is 5, you have to learn how to read in order to navigate the world," she explained.

A bookcase for the space was donated by State Rep. Rick Staples, and books have been donated by community members.  

"We're here because of a community leader, I call her that, Goldie Littlejohn came up with an idea to institute and get kids reading again," Staples said. "Instead of having some downtime in a barber shop, she decided to create a reading nook to encourage young people to come in here and read."

If you'd like to donate any of your books to the cause, you are welcome to drop them off at Gam's Barbershop.