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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/

MashReads Podcast: If you read one book this year, it should be ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders

Image: MJ Franklin/ Mashable

George Saunders has a rule for art: “If you do it right, it’s almost like this beautiful prism, and no matter what the time is, you can shine a light through it and it will make some sense.”

It’s an apt description and an excellent way to describe Saunders’ newest book Lincoln in the Bardo, a postmodern novel that’s both incredibly timely and quintessentially timeless.

Lincoln In The Bardo tells the story of one fateful night in a Georgetown graveyard in 1862. When his son Willie dies, a grief-stricken Abraham Lincoln goes to visit his body three times throughout the course of a night. But unbeknownst to him, he’s not the only inhabitant in the graveyard.

The cemetery is also full of ghosts stuck in bardo, the period between death and whatever comes next in the afterlife. Drawn to his father’s presence, Willie Lincoln decides to stay in the bardo, starting a fateful battle for the boy’s soul.

Told through a chorus of 166 different voices, Lincoln In The Bardo is a perfectly crafted novel about the universal themes of grief, empathy, family and the existential angst of moving on. Do yourself a favor and go read this book ASAP.

This week on the MashReads Podcast, we read and discuss Lincoln in the Bardo with George Saunders himself! Join us as we talk about history, postmodern novels and the power of empathy in literature.

And as always, we close the show with recommendations:

  • George has a host of book recommendations including: Moonglow by Michael Chebon, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Swingtime by Zadie Smith and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 by Victor Klemperer.
  • Aliza recommends the audiobook version of Lincoln In The Bardo. “The audiobook for this book, Lincoln In The Bardo, is amazing. All of the 166 different perspectives have a different voice actor; they’re all well known celebrities/ big name actors, and they all apparently knocked it out of the park.”
  • Peter recommends rewatching the first John Wick movie (before seeing John Wick: Chapter 2). “What I love so much about that movie is that it all takes place in its own kind of silly world, but it knows it’s silly and it’s fine being silly.”
  • MJ recommends Kathryn Schulz’s ‘When Things Go Missing,’ a new essay in the New Yorker about grief and the phenomenon of losing things. “It’s both a really heartbreaking and emotional essay, but also a masterful one. [Kathryn Schulz] is such a phenomenal writer. I highly recommend you go read this.”

We hope you’ll join us next week on the podcast as we read and discuss History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera with Silvera himself.

And if you’re looking for even more book news, don’t forget to follow MashReads on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/26/mashreads-podcast-lincoln-in-the-bardo-george-saunders/

MashRead Podcast: ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ is the classic novel that should be on every reading list

Image: Mashable Composite, HarperCollins

Sometimes the best way to understand the present is to look at the past.

Or at least that’s true with Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The book was written 80 years ago, but the commentary it makes on race and feminism feels as fresh and contemporary as anything published today.

Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie Crawford, a southern woman living in Florida in the early 1900s. When Janie returns to home from an extended time away, she is followed by a wave of gossip about her past. Determined to set the record straight, she tells her life story to her friend Pheoby, recounting her adventures as they relate to her three marriages and how each marriage shaped her into a sharp and fiercely independent woman who must navigate the pressures placed on her as a black woman in the south.

This week on the MashReads Podcast, we read and discuss Zora Neal Hurston’s timeless novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Join us as we talk about the book’s portrait of the south, how the book is like The Odyssey by Homer and how Hurston wrote the feminist boss queen we all need right now.

Then, inspired by Their Eyes Were Watching God and Black History Month, we discuss our favorite books by black authors including Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi.

And as always we close the show with recommendations:

  • Aliza recommends the Everything, Everything trailer. She also recommends a list of geeky feminist projects after attending the Strand’s Galentine’s Day event this week including Geek Girl Brunch, an international meetup group that hosts activities for geeky women and Geek Girl Strong, a program and community that combines geekdom with fitness.
  • Peter recommends The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. “It’s really, really, really great. Especially in terms of fantasy… It’s a rainbow of people and characters in a way that I have personally have found sendom in a fantasy genre. And it’s wonderful and refreshing.”
  • MJ recommends Dear White People, the 2014 movie that inspired the upcoming Netflix series of the same name. “What I loved about this movie is that it felt like a dialogue…Whether you agree with the politics of the characters or not, [the movie] felt like a smart, rich dialogue that we should be having right now.”

And if you’re looking for a book to sink your teeth into, we recommend History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, which is this month’s official MashReads book club book.

If you’re looking for even more book news, don’t forget to follow MashReads on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/18/mashreads-podcast-their-eyes-were-watching-god-zora-neale-hurston/

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