Recently, CBS New York Channel 2 did a segment on an early reading program taking place in local barbershops throughout the country. Barbershop Books encourages barbershops to create child friendly reading spaces and provide literacy training to barbers across the country.
The CBS segment featured the barbershop Harlem Masters and its owner, Polo Greene, who worked with a curated list of books to create not only positive early reading experiences for his young clients, but adventures. We later came to learn that Greene also lent his name and business to a healthy body, as well as inquisitive young minds.
While Barbershops Books has become a national program, it began as a debut program of Reading Holiday Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit literacy organization right here in New York City by the program founder, Alvin Irby, originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, now a Harlem resident ~ with a Masters in childhood education from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education, a Master of public Administration from the Wagner School of Public Service, NYU, and a Bachelor’s from Grinnell College. He has also been in the trenches, having taught kindergarten and first grade in NYC public schools, and serving as Education Director at the Boys’ Club of New York.
Irby will say that the project is not about tracking performance or improving proficiency rates, but simply to make reading fun. “Unlike literacy programs based in schools, libraries, or community organizations, Barbershop Books brings children’s books into a male centered environment. It connects barbers and parents to the early reading experiences of young boys in a positive and culturally meaningful way.”
Barbershop Books is in 110 barbershops nationwide, with nearly a dozen barbershops in Harlem. The goal ~ to expand to more than 200 barbershops nationwide and 50 in NYC.
Looking for other early reading programs in Harlem? Check out The Children’s Reading Circle in Marcus Garvey Park, a weekly summer program organized by Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, under the trees, and on the grass. Take a peek inside the three Little Free Libraries in Marcus Garvey Park ~ one for the young, one teens, and one for adults.
Visit your local public library.