By Barbara Hagen • November 30, 2020
When I was a kid, I loved to read. Summers were the best because I had endless hours every day to indulge my passion and escape into newly discovered worlds. I was fortunate to have access to as many books as I wanted. I borrowed quite a few from my local library but most were purchased and put into my own personal collection, my favorites of which I read multiple times. At the time, I took it all for granted.
This past spring, as we all faced the new reality of COVID’s lasting impact and continued closures of businesses, schools, and public places like libraries, I thought about my childhood days filled with reading. And then I thought of all the children across the country with little, if any, access to books. Through our ThriftBooks Gives initiative we donate books to 501(c)(3) organizations who write to us. These organizations make an impact in their local areas, which is wonderful. But I thought about how ThriftBooks could improve book access for children on a national scale. So I did some research and found an amazing organization: Barbershop Books.
Barbershop Books is a community-based literacy organization that helps Black boys and other vulnerable children identify as readers by connecting reading to male-centered spaces and by involving men in boys' early reading experiences.
According to the US Department of Education, 65% of fourth grade students in the United States are not proficient in reading, and outcomes for children living in poverty are much worse. Among Black and Latino male fourth graders, the percentage of students who are not proficient in reading balloons to more than 80%. These sobering statistics represent a call to action for educators, parents, and book lovers everywhere.
Barbershop Books has more than 200 participating barbershops and other community partners across 56 cities and 23 states, each committed to making reading fun for the vulnerable children they serve. With in-person school instruction suspended due to COVID-19 in many school districts across the country, and access to computers or reliable internet service severely limited for millions of children, books matter now more than ever. But not just any book.
Reading for fun is key to improving reading proficiency and promoting lifelong reading, but too often the books that children want to read differ from those selected by parents, teachers, and other adults. Research shows that the majority of children prefer books that make them laugh while most parents prefer books that make children think and feel. As parents and educators explore ways to increase out-of-school reading time for boys and other children during this difficult time, we encourage you to start with children's interests.
I reached out to Alvin Irby, founder of Barbershop Books, to see how ThriftBooks could support their cause.
This Giving Tuesday, Alvin and I are pleased to announce ThriftBooks support for Barbershop Books with an annual commitment to donate 20,000 children's books, curated by Barbershop Books, to Black boys and other vulnerable children ages 4-8 throughout the United States. This innovative collaboration will draw from the ThriftBooks catalog of millions of quality used books and utilize Barbershop Books' national network of community partners to get high-interest titles into communities that need them most.
Additionally, ThriftBooks will donate $5,000 on Giving Tuesday to support Barbershop Books' innovative programming and reading opportunities for children in cities and states across the country.
ThriftBooks is committed to helping kids discover fun books and become lifelong readers. Together, we can help children build their own home libraries and spark a lifelong love for reading.
Pictured: Alvin Irby, founder of Barbershop Books, and Barbara Hagen, VP of Marketing at ThriftBooks