He's making reading fun for little Black boys!
Meet Alvin Irby, the award-winning educator, entrepreneur and author who's also the "Chief Reading Inspirer" at Barbershop Books. The Arkansas native is a former kindergarten teacher who aims to inspire Black boys to read for fun through his nonprofit.
Based in New York, NY, Irby founded Barbershop Books with a mission to "inspire Black boys and other vulnerable children to read for fun through child-centered, culturally responsive, and community-based programming and content," landing him on PepsiCo Foundation and Doritos SOLID BLACK's list of 16 community leaders for their 2023 Black Changemakers program, a program designed to highlight the positive impact people are making in their neighborhoods.
According to a press statement released by the PepsiCo Foundation, selected Black Changemakers will each receive a $50,000 grant, leadership development training and regular one-on-one fundraising coaching, software, and technical assistance. With Black-led organizations generating 24 percent less in revenue than white-led organizations, we are proud to highlight a Black changemaker who's pouring into our Black youth.
Irby is using what most Black boys and men consider a safe haven to complete his mission: the barbershop.
"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," he told us. "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 is addressing the lack of Black male reading role models in boys' schools and homes by supporting early literacy in Black barbershops."
He's currently partnering with Urban Libraries Council to support four library systems in creating child-friendly reading spaces in 40 barbershops across 4 US cities, including Cleveland Public Library, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Shreve Memorial Library, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Today, he will be honored with the SXSW Community Service Award for his work expanding reading opportunities for underserved children. However, over the next 3 years, he plans to expand to more than 500 barbershop partners and provide early literacy training to over 1,500 barbers. "[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," Irby told Because of Them We Can.
Barbershop Books is currently seeking partners in Harlem, the Bronx, Philadelphia, Shreveport (LA), Cleveland, Columbus (OH), and Charlotte; be sure to recommend a barbershop here.
We love what you're doing, Irby! Keep making a difference.