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Barbershop Books Fosters Reading Among Young Black Boys

Barbershop Books Fosters Reading Among Young Black Boys

Alvin Irby was getting a haircut when inspiration struck. One of his students was also at the barbershop, clearly bored. “He should be practicing his reading,” Alvin thought to himself. That thought led to Barbershop Books.

The non-profit leverages the cultural significance of barbershops in Black communities by placing bookshelves, stocked with books geared toward Black boys ages 4–8, in these businesses. By creating these child-friendly reading spaces, Barbershop Books hopes to encourage young Black boys to increase their out-of-school reading time and ultimately identify as readers. The organization also provides training for barbers in early literacy.

Like the rest of us, Barbershop Books has had to pivot during the pandemic with people going to barbershops less frequently and contamination unknowns. In October, the non-profit launched the Reading So Lit eLibrary which contains free e-books and more than 50 read alouds. All the books feature characters of color, more often than not in laugh-out-loud stories, an element Alvin feels is key to getting kids to read. You’ll also find Alvin’s own book, Gross Greg, on this virtual bookshelf.

Alvin was a guest on the December 2020 edition of the library’s podcast, Shelf Centered. You can hear that interview here.