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Business, Creatives, Entrepreneurship

Alvin Irby - Barbershop Books

Alvin Irby, an elementary teacher turned comedian and social entrepreneur, founded Reading Holiday Project Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit literacy organization, and created Barbershop Books, the first nationally recognized literacy program that places child-friendly reading spaces inside barbershops.

This innovative Barbershop Books program has now been featured on NBC, CBS, Black Enterprise Magazine and CNN.


In this episode, I asked Alvin:

      • [spp-timestamp time="02:45"] Was being a teacher your dream as a child?
      • [spp-timestamp time="03:40"] What inspired your desire to teach?
      • [spp-timestamp time="06:00"] What inspired Barbershop Books?
      • [spp-timestamp time="08:45"] Where do you turn to for mentorship, coaching and support?
      • [spp-timestamp time="10:00"] Was the transition from your full time as a teacher to Barbershop Books a long process?
      • [spp-timestamp time="13:45"] What have been the biggest lessons you've learned about yourself through this transition from teacher to founder of the Reading Holiday Project?
      • [spp-timestamp time="15:30"] What do you do to get out of your own head with fears when the fear begins to creep in?
      • [spp-timestamp time="18:00"] What advice would you give to a teacher who has an entrepreneurial idea?
      • [spp-timestamp time="22:30"] How do you define success?
      • [spp-timestamp time="23:30"] What are you most grateful for right now?
      • [spp-timestamp time="24:45"] What is on your vision board for Barbershop Books for the next 5 years and beyond?

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Alvin Irby's Bio

Alvin is the Founder of Reading Holiday Project, Inc. and Chief Reading Inspirer at Barbershop Books.

Barbershop Books is a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops for boys ages 4-8. Alvin and the Barbershop Books brand look to leverage the cultural significance of barbershops in Black communities to help black boys identify as readers. This innovative approach connects black men and families to black boys’ early reading experiences. It also improves boys’ access to culturally relevant, age appropriate, and gender responsive children’s books, while increasing the amount of time boys read for fun.

Reading Holiday Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to close the reading achievement gap for black boys. Barbershop Books is the organization’s first program.

Alvin Irby, an elementary teacher turned comedian / social entrepreneur, is a southern transplant living in New York City. As the middle child of three rambunctious kids, he quickly discovered his gift for making people laugh. Irby’s smart brand of comedy draws on his eclectic educational, professional, and life experiences. Since moving to New York City in 2007, Irby has completed two Masters degrees, performed at comedy clubs, festivals, and colleges throughout the United States, taught kindergarten and 1st grade, and served as Education Director at the Boys Club of New York.

In 2013, Irby founded Reading Holiday Project Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit literacy organization, and created Barbershop Books, a nationally recognized literacy program that places child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops. This innovative program has been featured on NBC, CBS, Black Enterprise Magazine and CNN. In addition to performing stand up and managing Barbershop Books, Irby gives motivational talks to middle and high school students and delivers keynote talks about cultural competency, early literacy, Black Male Achievement, and social entrepreneurship at national conferences across America.

Irby was one of nine national finalists (out of more than 600 comedians) selected by NBC to perform in the 2015 StandUp NBC Finale Showcase at the Hollywood Improv in Los Angeles, CA. Irby’s clever social commentary and hilarious observations have made him one of comedy’s freshest new voices. Alvin Irby fuses education, comedy, public speaking, and social entrepreneurship to make people laugh and to help create transformative learning experiences for underserved children.

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