Harlem has always been the east coast mecca for Black culture and art. I remember my days at Hunter College, trolling the uptown bookstores for that rare author. With this tradition Alvin Irby‘s project, Barbershop Boys, recognizes and meets the challenges that prevent young Black youth from developing a healthy love for books.
In 2013, former kindergarten and first-grade teacher Alvin Irby launched “Barbershop Books,” an initiative that targets young black boys who frequent barbershops and aims to improve their reading comprehension by encouraging them to dive into the world of literature.
The Barbershop Books website describes its purpose: “To close the reading gap for young black boys by using child-centered, culturally relevant, and high-impact strategies.” According to the White House, 86 percent of black boys are below proficient reading levels by the fourth grade, compared to 58 percent of white boys in the same category.
A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.