Closing the Literacy Gap: Barbershop Books

Barbershop Books 2

Alvin Irby (former educator) created the “Barbershop Books” program, as an initiative to promote literacy for young black males. The program is also targeted at helping Black boys associate books and reading as a part of their identity. According to Irby, the idea is simple: identify barbershops that Black families frequent, and set up a shelf of children’s books.  Irby believes the books should “appeal to young boys by being action-packed, culturally relatable, and led by male characters.” Barbershop owners, employees, and parents should encourage boys to select books and read while they wait for their time to get a haircut. Barbershop books programs have been established in six barbershops in Harlem and Brooklyn. Irby plans to continue these efforts to expand to more than 20 shops. He has received funding and has continued to seek additional funds.

Laura Bliss recently reported on Barbershop Books and its quest to close the literacy gap. In her article she included some data from Kids Count regarding Black boys and literacy in America. According to the article, “in 2013 only 10% of African American boys from low-income families were reading proficiently in 4th grade, compared to 25% of their White peers”. Irby further proclaimed that through his research and experience teaching, he believes that Black males don’t associate books with their identity. Furthermore, the absence of strong Black male role models such as fathers and teachers encouraging Black boys contributes to the issue.

Barbershop Books 1

Barbershop Books, aims to diminish the stereotype and negative self-perception that Black boys don’t read. Irby believes that if barbershops become a place that encourage reading, then overtime, Black boys will begin to think about reading when they see a barbershop. This idea is centered on a classic marketing theory of word and idea implicit associations.
In the future, Irby has plans to continue his work to get kids of all backgrounds reading for fun in a variety of settings in order to improve the lives of all children and close the literacy gap. For more information on Barbershop Books visit www.readingholidayproject.org . For more information on Alvin Irby, visit www.alvinirby.com

Sources: http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2015/04/getting-african-american-boys-to-read-with-barbershop-books/390405/
www.readingholidayproject.org

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Closing the Literacy Gap: Barbershop Books

  1. This is an excellent idea that seems so simple at the same time. One of those, “of course” kind of things.
    It does make me think that it’s odd how the long held heroes of Blacks are not associated with reading. Or is it that they don’t see the heroes reading. Or do they not see enough of the people that are raising them read?
    I recall every man that I knew from my grandfather to uncles to even other men in the community always had some form of reading on a regular routine, be it the paper or a paperback in the back pocket, I always saw some form of reading activity on a regular basis.

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