Black barbershops are doing their part to help children develop a love for reading. Alvin Irby, a former educator, is leading the effort to bring more children’s books to Black barbershops. Irby has launched a nonprofit organization known as Barbershop Books. The organization, which has distributed books to 250 shops in over 50 cities across the country, specifically aims to introduce Black boys to stories that are fun and relatable.

“Black boys are more than just their skin color,” Irby said in an interview with USA Today. “They want to read about trucks. They want to laugh. So many of the books that feature Black boys don’t give them a chance to be boys: silly or gross or funny.”

Irby’s organization is placing books such as Captain Underpants, Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid in barbershops where children can have access to them. Although some of the books don’t feature Black characters, Irby said they can still be fun and relatable for Black boys. According to Irby, Barbershop Books “tries to amplify Black characters but also create spaces that recognize the individuality of Black boys.”

The Little Rock, Arkansas native adds that Black barbershops are the ideal place for books.

“Black barbershops are some of the few local businesses owned by people from the neighborhood,” Irby said. “It’s a really unique opportunity for a variety of interactions, not just about reading but also about culture and masculinity.”

Barbershops also represent a place where children can see positive male role models.

“It’s about cultivating a reading identity and involving men in that, so Black men are part of children’s reading experience,” Irby said.

Wanza Poole, who owns a barbershop in Philadelphia, is glad to see that Barbershop Books has distributed books to his store. Poole said books spark valuable interactions in the shop.

“It’s like a secret book club with your friends, you know?” Poole told USA Today. “We talk about the books we read, we’ll recommend a book, talk about what we like and didn’t like.”