As one customer says: "basically, he's entered icon status."
The Rueben Martinez story is like something out of a book. Actually, it's all about books.
He reads to children in his bookstore: "The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you grow!"
He's a hero in Southern California's Latino community.
After years of lending books, customers said, "why not open a book store?"
That was 15 years ago.
Martinez now has three bookstores - but he's not just selling books, he says he's selling a life-changing experience.
He told students: "If you don't have an education you're going to run into a wall that's 20 foot deep. You can't go through it."
He goes to schools, on his personal million-word march, preaching reading as the solution to drop out rates approaching 50 percent at some schools.
"Why are these kids leaving?" he asked. "It just breaks my heart."
Now, he's planting seeds in young minds.
"Don't let anybody tell you, that you can't do it!" he told students.
He's reaping what he's sown. Frances Govea-McKeun used to sit in his barber chair and listen. Now she's a teacher at Pio Pico Elementary School. She said: "He inspired me to pursue my dream in becoming a school teacher."
It's often standing-room-only at book signings.
His passion for books won him a MacArthur Award - you know, the one given to geniuses. Doesn't leave much time to cut hair these days. Not bad for a barber who never finished high school.
He told a line of fifth graders: "Write down your goals and dreams! Be a teacher, singer, dancer, make money! Make lots of money! Learn so you can earn."