Barbershop Books Help Give Black Boys New Educational Opportunities

Alvin Irby, founder and Executive Director of Barbershop Books, is significantly impacting young Black boys. According to Because of Them We Can, the Arkansas native, who formerly worked as a kindergarten teacher, is helping boys read more often with his nonprofit.  

Based in New York, Barbershop Books aims to “inspire Black boys and other vulnerable children to read for fun through child-centered, culturally responsive, and community-based programming and content.” 

Irby’s nonprofit is created directly to combat a community reading deficiency. Statistics show that over 82% of Black male 4th-grade students in the United States “are not proficient in reading.” In addition, it was found that many students interested in reading don’t have access to the types of books they like or the things they want to learn about.

Barbershop Books allows young Black boys to explore their passion for reading in a safe and comfortable setting like a barbershop. By providing an exciting and wide variety of well-conditioned books, Black boys can enjoy a haircut and a good read simultaneously. 

Irby has big dreams to expand on it when he gets the chance. He told the outlet, “I envision a future in which every Black barbershop in America has a child-friendly reading space and barbers who promote and encourage reading for every child and family that enters their doors. Less than 2% of K-12 teachers are Black men, and during the first few years of school, when children learn to read, there are even fewer Black male teachers. Barbershop Books addresses the lack of Black male reading role models in boys’ schools and homes by supporting early literacy in Black barbershops.”

Irby discussed plans to include over 500 barbershop partners with his program and train nearly 2,000 barbers in early literacy practices. 

Irby explained, “[We’re] working to create a world where every Black boy stands bold in his brilliance and embraces reading and learning as a part of who he is. At its essence, Barbershop Books is a national movement to amplify, affirm, and celebrate stories and learning experiences that help Black boys and other vulnerable children thrive and realize their full potential.”

By utilizing the bond between a boy and his barber, Irby hopes to foster more conducive environments to help Black boys learn comfortably.