Choose A Book And Read To Your Barber
Barbershop Books is a community-based literacy program that creates child- friendly reading spaces in barbershops for boys ages 4-8.
Help black boys ages 4-8 to identify as readers by connecting books and reading to a male-centered space and by involving men in boys' early reading experiences.
THE LITERACY CHALLENGE
According to the United States Department of Education, more than 85% of America’s black male 4th grade students are not proficient in reading.
In an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy, poor reading skills among young black boys today will produce black men who are unprepared to compete in the workforce of tomorrow. Four key factors contribute to low reading proficiency among black boys: (1) limited access to engaging and age appropriate reading material; (2) lack of black men in black boys’ early reading experiences; (3) few culturally competent educators; and (4) schools that are unresponsive to black boys’ individual learning styles.
About the founder
Alvin Irby is a passionate educator committed to innovative curriculum, child-centered education, and transformative teaching and leadership. As a national speaker and award-winning entrepreneur, Irby has inspired a movement to put children’s books in barbershops across America. He holds a Sociology degree from Grinnell College, a Masters in General Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education, and a Masters of Public Administration from New York University. Irby has taught kinder- garten and first grade in New York City public schools and served as Education Director at the Boys’ Club of New York. Irby has also received accolades as a stand-up comedian. In 2015, he was one of nine StandUp NBC national finalists selected to perform at the legendary Hollywood Improv in Los Angeles, CA. His debut children’s book, Gross Greg, combines his passion for early literacy and comedy. It is a laugh out loud story about a boy who loves eating his boogers. Gross Greg is available December 2016.
WHAT IS BARBERSHOP BOOKS?
Barbershop Books is the debut program of Reading Holiday Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit literacy organization in New York City. Developed in Harlem, Barbershop Books is a community-based program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops and provides early literacy training to barbers across America. We leverage the cultural significance of barbershops in black communities to increase boys' access to culturally relevant, age appropriate, and gender responsive children's books and to increase out-of-school time reading among young black boys.
💜 STORYWRAPS HUGS
Sometimes a book is just a hobby, a fun way to consume a new story. But sometimes a book is a powerful tool to advance social change.
The National Book Foundation announced the winner of the 2017 Innovations In Reading Prize. The prize is an annual award that honors individuals and organizations that are using literature to make a social impact on the world and comes with a $10,000 prize. The award was founded in 2009, and since it launched, it has honored a variety of organizations including Next Chapter Book Club and Chicago Books to Women in Prison.
This year, the winner of the Innovations in Reading Prize is Barbershop Books, a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops.
The program was founded in 2013 by Alvin Irby, an author and former kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, as a way to help young black boys identify as readers.
"At Barbershop Books, we believe that by pairing books and reading with barbershops, over time an association will be formed in community members and children — that when they see a barbershop, it will trigger them to think about books and reading," Irby explains.
The idea came to Irby when he saw one of his students walk into a barbershop without a book.
"[My student] just sat there with this bored look on his face for 15 or 20 minutes, and the whole time, I kept thinking, ‘He should be practicing his reading right now,'" he said. "So it was literally that perfect storm that brought about the idea: me being a teacher, me seeing my student, and me spending a lifetime going to the barbershop and understanding how important it is for the young boys who go there."
Since its launch, Barbershop Books has partnered with more than 50 barbershops across 20 cities in 12 different states to provide books for young black boys, a community that Irby explains is often underserved in school.
"Many young black boys may literally never see a black man reading in school during the years when they’re learning to read because there are so few black male elementary school teachers," Irby says.
Because of this, Irby says, many young black boys never have people who look like them encouraging them to read.
But that's where barbershops come in.
"For many of those same young black boys, if they go to a barbershop, they actually see their barber at least once or twice a month," he said. "Those frequent trips to the barbershop creates this opportunity to help boys identify as readers.”
But Barbershop Books is about more than just giving kids access to books — it's about giving kids access to books they want to read.
"This is really what Barbershop books is about, getting young black boys to say three words: I’m a reader."
"One of the things you’ll notice as I talk about Barbershop Books is that you won’t hear me talking about reading skills or vocabulary," Irby said. "That’s not a coincidence. I think there are far too many young black boys whose first and early reading experience are almost all skills-based. And there are fewer and fewer opportunities for children just to have fun, low-stress interactions with books and reading. And that’s what Barbershop Books is trying to do. Our belief is that if we can create positive reading experiences early and often for young black boys, then they will choose to read for fun because they will identify as a reader."
And that is the very core of Barbershop Book's mission — not just getting students to pick up a book, but rather to self-identify as a reader.
"This is really what Barbershop books is about, getting young black boys to say three words: I’m a reader," he said. "If we can get young black boys to say those three words, we believe they will read for fun, and if they read for fun, we believe they will reach higher levels of reading proficiency."
It's a mission that Irby hopes to spread to more and more places. With the $10,000 prize money, Irby plans to expand Barbershop Books to expand to Little Rock, Arkansas (Irby’s hometown), partnering with 10 new barbershops and conducting trainings for barbers to learn how to establish reading community spaces.
Barbershop Books wasn't the only organization spotlighted by the National Book Foundation with the innovations in reading prize. The organization also announced several honorable mentions including: Books@Work, Great Reading Games, Poetry in Motion, Reach Out and Read.
I put hours of work finding the best kid's books to review for you each day. If you enjoy visiting Storywraps and would like to donate something for my time and effort I would greatly appreciate it.
Go to the top of my blog at the right hand corner (below my photo) and please donate what you feel lead to give. The amount you donate and the frequency you donate is totally up to you. I thank you in advance for your support. I love what I do and appreciate any amount that you may give so I can make our community even better. Thanks a million!
Please skip on over to Facebook and "LIKE" my Storywraps page!!! I'd so appreciate that.