Nationwide — Araba Maze, a mobile librarian from Baltimore, Maryland, is on a mission to increase access to books in underserved areas by giving free books to local Black children via her pop-up shops and vending machines.
Maze said it all started about 5 years ago when she was reading children’s books to her niece on a Baltimore stoop and she noticed that other neighborhood kids would come by to listen. Since then, she started collecting books that she regularly read for storytime with them.
Driven by her purpose, Maze became a librarian but realized that it wasn’t enough and she wanted to do more. That’s when she decided to go to the streets outside of the library to reach more kids and she became known as the Radical Street Librarian, she told US News.
Maze then founded The Storybook Maze Project, an organization that provides free children’s books in Baltimore’s “book desserts,” or areas where books and other reading materials are inaccessible. In these areas, which usually have high poverty rates, the children often experience difficulty in reading and understanding words.
Maze aims to provide more books to as many children as possible. She sets up community bookshelves, pop-up book stands, and book-vending machines that offer curated books that are diverse and relatable for free. She also constantly applies for grants and reaches out to community leaders to financially support the work. After all, she believes her efforts are all worthwhile.
“When I was reading one day on the stoop, I opened the page and the little girl stopped me from turning the page. She was just staring at an image of herself: that book also had a little Black girl living, and she was just transfixed,” Maze said. “That really affirmed for me that I’m doing important work.”
Be sure to follow Araba Maze on Instagram @StoryBookMaze
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