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Barbershop Books is using barbershops to inspire kids to read

Sometimes a book is just a hobby, a fun way to consume a new story. But sometimes a book is a powerful tool to advance social change.

The National Book Foundation announced the winner of the 2017 Innovations In Reading Prize on Monday. The prize is an annual award that honors individuals and organizations that are using literature to make a social impact on the world and comes with a $10,000 prize. The award was founded in 2009, and since it launched, it has honored a variety of organizations including Next Chapter Book Club and Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

This year, the winner of the Innovations in Reading Prize is Barbershop Books, a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops.

The program was founded in 2013 by Alvin Irby, an author and former kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, as a way to help young black boys identify as readers.

“At Barbershop Books, we believe that by pairing books and reading with barbershops, over time an association will be formed in community members and children that when they see a barbershop, it will trigger them to think about books and reading,” Irby explains.

The idea came to Irby when he saw one of his students walk into a barbershop without a book.

“[My student] just sat there with this bored look on his face for 15 or 20 minutes, and the whole time, I kept thinking, He should be practicing his reading right now,'” he said. “So it was literally that perfect storm that brought about the idea: me being a teacher, me seeing my student, and me spending a lifetime going to the barbershop and understanding how important it is for the young boys who go there.”

Since its launch, Barbershop Books has partnered with more than 50 barbershops across 20 cities in 12 different states to provide books for young black boys, a community that Irby explains is often underserved in school.

“Many young black boys may literally never see a black man reading in school during the years when theyre learning to read because there are so few black male elementary school teachers,” Irby says.

Because of this, Irby says, many young black boys never have people who look like them encouraging them to read.

But that’s where barbershops come in.

“For many of those same young black boys, if they go to a barbershop, they actually see their barber at least once or twice a month,” he said. “Those frequent trips to the barbershop creates this opportunity to help boys identify as readers.”

Image: Barbershop Books

But Barbershop Books is about more than just giving kids access to books it’s about giving kids access to books they want to read.

“This is really what Barbershop books is about, getting young black boys to say three words: Im a reader.”

“One of the things youll notice as I talk about Barbershop Books is that you wont hear me talking about reading skills or vocabulary,” Irby said. “Thats not a coincidence. I think there are far too many young black boys whose first and early reading experience are almost all skills-based. And there are fewer and fewer opportunities for children just to have fun, low-stress interactions with books and reading. And thats what Barbershop Books is trying to do. Our belief is that if we can create positive reading experiences early and often for young black boys, then they will choose to read for fun because they will identify as a reader.”

And that is the very core of Barbershop Book’s mission not just getting students to pick up a book, but rather to self-identify as a reader.

“This is really what Barbershop books is about, getting young black boys to say three words: Im a reader,” he said. “If we can get young black boys to say those three words, we believe they will read for fun, and if they read for fun, we believe they will reach higher levels of reading proficiency.”

It’s a mission that Irby hopes to spread to more and more places. With the $10,000 prize money, Irby plans to expand Barbershop Books to expand to Little Rock, Arkansas (Irbys hometown), partnering with 10 new barbershops and conducting trainings for barbers to learn how to establish reading community spaces.

Barbershop Books wasn’t the only organization spotlighted by the National Book Foundation with the innovations in reading prize. The organization also announced several honorable mentions including: Books@Work, Great Reading Games, Poetry in Motion, Reach Out and Read.

You can learn more about each organization below.

Honorable Mentions:

Books@Work

Image: Books@Work

Books@Work brings professor-led literature seminars to workplaces and community settings to build confidence, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Through shared narratives, Books@Work builds human capacity to imagine, innovate, and connect, strengthening cultures of trust, respect, and inclusion.

Great Reading Games

Image: Great Reading Games

Great Reading Games is a national audiobook reading competition from Learning Ally, a non-profit that helps students with print-disabilities. The contest is designed to motivate students to increase the frequency and duration with which they read.

Poetry in Motion

Image: Poetry In Motion

Poetry in Motion is a project by the Poetry Society of America that places poetry and accompanying art in subway cars throughout New York City. Since it was a founded in 1992 (with a brief hiatus between 2008 – 2011), Poetry In Motion has brought more than 200 poems and excerpts to millions of subway riders.

Reach Out and Read

Image: Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/01/innovations-in-reading-prize-barbershop-books/

Rockstar is not happy about driverless cars learning from ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ without permission

Driverless cars that work are cool, but using another company’s work without their permission maybe isn’t.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that manufacturers of driverless cars were using video game environments as a testing ground to help teach their cars how to drive themselves. One video game in particular became the go-to for the impressive work that went into its streets: Grand Theft Auto V.

Researchers connected to Intel Labs figured out a way to modify GTAV‘s engine and algorithms to set up a simulation that would allow companies to track car data on the streets of Los Santos.

The resources needed to test AI on self-driving cars in the real-world are extensive, but a video game environment allows for much easier use. It’s not perfect because, as accurate as the physics in a game can be, it’s still not the real world but it certainly helps move the process along at a faster rate. Researchers can study a car’s response to obstacles and various scenarios incrementally, and make changes on the fly as needed. Rinse and repeat. You can’t really do that in the real without without spending tons of hours on it.

As Bloomberg reported:

Just relying on data from the roads is not practical, said Davide Bacchet, who leads the simulation effort in San Jose, California, for Nio, a startup aiming to introduce an autonomous electric car in the U.S. in 2020. With simulation, you can run the same scenario over and over again for infinite times, then test it again.

A fascinating use of technology, to be sure. But Rockstar sent us a statement today highlighting the other side to this. We welcome discussions about the use of our technology to help further academic research, but its obviously not appropriate for corporations to take our work and use it for their own financial interests or for researchers to distribute unlicensed copies of our code as part of their work without first seeking our permission, the company said.

Technically, no one seems to be directly profiting off of using the GTAV engine just yet. But it certainly paves the way for that to happen. Like, for instance, if companies like Google grab this data to get a leg up on, say, Tesla, who have bragged about the number of hours they’ve logged testing their driverless cars. Video game modifications have always been a little tricky, legally-speaking, but particularly once money comes into the equation.

WATCH: A driverless shuttle called Harry is coming to London and it’s low-key exciting

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/21/rocktar-gta-driverless-cars/

Bob Dylan receives Nobel Prize in literature in Sweden

(CNN)Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan finally received his Nobel Prize in literature Saturday at a private ceremony in Stockholm, according to a statement posted online by the head of the Swedish Academy.

The presentation came five months after the academy announced Dylan was the winner and more than three months after the formal award ceremony, which Dylan didn’t attend because of “pre-existing commitments.” Singer Patti Smith stood in for him.
But Dylan was in Stockholm this weekend to perform concerts and the private ceremony was arranged.
It’s not known what Dylan had to say about the award. Swedish media reported no cameras were present at the ceremony. There were no comments made to media by Dylan,or any member of the academy, either before or after the event.
Upon the announcement of Dylan’s award in October, the academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, said Dylan “is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition,” drawing parallels between his work and that of ancient Greek poets.
Saturday, she issued the following statement on Dylan’s receipt of the award:
“Earlier today the Swedish Academy met with Bob Dylan for a private ceremony in Stockholm, during which Dylan received his gold medal and diploma. Twelve members of the Academy were present. Spirits were high. Champagne was had.

The debate over Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for literature

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“Quite a bit of time was spent looking closely at the gold medal, in particular the beautifully crafted back, an image of a young man sitting under a laurel tree who listens to the Muse. Taken from Virgil’s Aeneid, the inscription reads: Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes, loosely translated as, ‘And they who bettered life on earth by their newly found mastery.’ The day came to an end with Dylan’s extraordinary performance at the Waterfront concert house.”
Dylan — the first songwriter to win a Nobel Prize — was acknowledged by the Swedish Academy “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/01/entertainment/bob-dylan-nobel-prize/index.html

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