By Felicity LuHill
June 30, 2017
A couple weeks ago, Barbershop Books Founder, Alvin Irby led his workshop, “Kale Salad & Boogers: How Cultural Competency Creates Transformative Reading Experiences” at the National Book Foundation’s conference, Why Reading Matters. Along with being direct about the issues young black boys face in schools today, Alvin also engaged his audience with humor and participation. What were some major takeaways? Here are three:
1.) Culture is everything: Culture isn’t exclusive to race. It’s where you live. It’s who you spend you’re time with. It’s what you do everyday.
2.) Kids just want to laugh: When Alvin talks with parents about what they think kids want to read they usually say kids want books with characters that “look like them.” But when Alvin talks with kids about what they want to read, they always say they just want a book that makes them laugh. Forcing kids to read books about segregation and racism against African Americans may not be the best method to get kids excited about reading. Though it is still rare, unfortunately, there are children’s books with African American characters that make kids laugh. Alvin Irby’s book, Gross Greg, for example.
3.) Don’t be fooled by the warm and fuzzies: Working in education and working with kids can give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside. It makes you feel good, which is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing your part to be culturally competent. Don’t stop striving to be better because of those warm, fuzzy feelings. Chances are there are more ways you can be more inclusive and engage a wider range of people in your work.