The barbershop is an essential aspect of Black communities across America. Alvin Irby, a New York-based educator, realized that barbershops would be the perfect space to get youth to become more engaged with reading.
In 2013, Irby founded Barbershop Books, a nonprofit that has brought over 50,000 children’s books to over 200 barbershops.
In collaboration with NFL Inspire Change social justice initiative, Irby launched Barbershop Books during Super Bowl week in Las Vegas.
Held at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, the event featured NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and several former players who helped to introduce the program to youth who are members of the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada.
Irby provided insight on how a visit to the barbershop in 2008 inspired the program.
“One of my first grade students walked into the barbershop, plopped down on the sofa, and started getting antsy,” Irby recalled. “All I kept thinking was, ‘man he should be practicing his reading right now.’ All these years later, Barbershop Books has created more than 250 child friendly reading spaces at barbershops across more than 50 cities and 20 states. I’m so excited that we now have spaces and barbershops right here in Las Vegas. And we are announcing to the world during Super Bowl week.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shared why it was important for the league to collaborate with Barbershop Books.
“We’re all exited to be in Las Vegas and appreciate the hospitality and support,” Goodell said. “We’re here today because there are a lot of young faces who will truly benefit from this. So from all of us at the NFL, including these great players, we thank you. We thank Barbershop Books for their work and the library district for its leadership. Reading is fundamental. Reading is critically important for everything you do in life. This is a chance for you to understand more about the world and to learn. This is a great program and a lot of people have led the way on this.”
Youth who attended the event got a chance to read their favorite books, get free haircuts, play video games, run football drills, and participate in art and crafts.
Along with help from NFL players, cheerleaders from the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Las Vegas Raiders gave a hand to support the youth.