By Cory Turner.
The solution first: 15. More precisely, 15 books. That’s Alvin Irby’s answer to a problem he knows all too well as a former kindergarten teacher: How to get children of color excited about reading if they don’t have much experience with books or reading outside of school, and the books they see inside of school don’t speak to them.
One day in March, Irby emerges from the subway in Harlem grateful for the grey hooded sweatshirt under his heavy winter parka. The snow falls in crystals the size of cornflakes. He wears glasses with translucent frames, a touch of cool for a man whose backpack is full of kids’ books. When he enters Levels Barbershop, on Lexington Avenue, the place thrums with electric razors, conversation and a movie on the flatscreen.