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This Awesome Program Is Getting Young Boys To Read In Barbershops

Barbershop Books, a community-based program, is creating reading spaces across America for black boys ages 4-8.

Posted on May 11, 2017, at 2:20 p.m. ET

Barbershop Books

We all know how important it is to inspire a love for reading early on in young children — and one place that owns this space is Barbershop Books, a community-based program started in Harlem that creates child-friendly spaces in barbershops across the U.S. for young boys to read in.

Barbershop Books's mission is to help black boys ages 4 to 8 "identify as readers by connecting books and reading to a male-centered space and by involving men in boys' early reading experiences."

Barbershop Books

"We leverage the cultural significance of barbershops in black communities to increase boys' access to culturally relevant, age appropriate, and gender responsive children's books and to increase out-of-school time reading among young black boys."

The program recently won the National Book Foundation's annual $10,000 Innovations in Reading Prize "for its work in engaging and empowering young readers across the country."

“Barbershop Books’ is an inspiring and innovative program that shows how a simple idea can have a profound impact, and we’re grateful to recognize their work through the Innovations in Reading Prize.”

The Prize identifies literary activists (either an individual or an organization) that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading.

Barbershop Books plans to use the $10,000 on locations in Little Rock, Arkansas, the hometown of its founder, Alvin Irby.

Andy Kropa

Irby dedicated the Prize to "the many barbers across America who make time each day to inspire young black boys to say three words, ‘I'm a reader.’"

Irby told BuzzFeed about his inspiration for starting the program:

I was getting a haircut across the street from PS 69 in the Bronx, where I taught first grade. One of my first graders walked into the shop and sat down on a sofa. He stared out a window for about 15 minutes with a bored look on his face and I thought to myself, "he should be practicing his reading right now." I wished I had a children's book with me at the time but I didn't. This chance encounter inspired the Barbershop Books program.

Congrats, Barbershop Books, and thanks for your work in spreading the joy of reading! 🙌

Barbershop Books

You can learn more about Barbershop Books here.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.