Summary of How to Inspire Every Child to Be a Lifelong Reader

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Today’s reading curricula are failing young black learners. Out of every 100 black fourth-grade boys, fewer than 15 are proficient readers. Alvin Irby – educator, author and founder of the literacy nonprofit Barbershop Books – believes cultural competency and an innovative, child-centered curriculum will help these kids cultivate a love of books and identify as readers. getAbstract recommends this inspiring, humorous talk to educators, policy makers and parents.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What factors contribute to illiteracy among black boys,
  • Why cultural competency is essential to teaching all children to read, and
  • How to inspire black children to identify as readers.

About the Speaker

Educator and stand-up comedian Alvin Irby is the founder of Barbershop Books, the recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 2017 Innovations in Reading Prize and the author of Gross Greg.



When educator and reading activist Alvin Irby was a little boy, his mother gave him reading lessons at the kitchen table while the neighborhood children played outside. His reading improved, but his love for reading suffered. In high school, Irby tired of his English class’s spelling tests and simple short stories and asked to move to Advanced English. There, the curriculum included reading novels and writing book reports. Yet upon joining the class, Irby mused, “Where did all these white people come from?” The high school was more than 70% black and Latino, but the class was noticeably white. The experience introduced Irby to institutionalized racism and changed how he felt about reading and learning. He became the engineer of his own literacy and education. He also learned that identity plays a crucial role in teaching children to read. Rather than focus on reading levels or word lists, educators should be asking how to motivate young people to identify as readers. 

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