A new non-profit is aimed at helping young Black boys improve their reading skills, and they’re targeting the one place that all Black boys go…….the barbershop.
With such an inspiring initiative, we can only hope that the Barbershop Books program grows nationwide.
Alvin Irby is a former school teacher and he’s changing how young black boys read with Barbershop Books, a non-profit that aims to close the reading achievement gap among black boys.
“Many young boys of color don’t interact with a lot of adults males who look like them, as it relates to reading,” he said. And another major challenge Irby said he’s seen: “I believe that a lot of young black boys don’t identify as readers, and a lot of that deals with limited access to engaging materials.”
So he decided to bring books into the barber shops.
They’re “one of the few places left in black communities where people, families of different socioeconomic levels interact,” according to Irby.
Each participating barber shop has a list of carefully chosen books that target boys between the ages of 4 and 8 years old. Denny Moe’s in Harlem is one of six barber shops in the city so far participating in the program, and owner Dennis Mitchell has gotten rid of video games in the shop to make room for books.
“Because I don’t have the video games in here anymore, I’m not making the money I was making,” he told NBC 4 New York recently while clipping the hair of a young boy engrossed in a book in the barber seat. “I still feel like I’m a whole lot richer because I’m enriching the community.”
According to The Nation’s Report Card from the White House, reading skills among male and female black students trail those of other races by the fourth grade: 86 percent of black boys aren’t reading at proficient levels by then, compared to 58 percent of white boys.