Araba Maze is making sure that kids grow up harboring a love for books and education even if they can't access exclusive bookstores and libraries.
Literacy is the answer to ending poverty, unemployment and crimes in the world and Araba Maze understands it well. Maze, who also goes by @storybookmaze on her social platforms like TikTok and Instagram, is out here making sure that every kid has a book in their hands while growing up. The former librarian from Baltimore now calls herself a radical street librarian who intends to inspire the impoverished section of the community to start reading and accessing libraries.
Maze has made it her mission to bring plenty of books to the lower-income neighborhoods that mostly do not have access to libraries and proper bookstores. She aims to help kids develop their love for reading, per Baltimore Magazine. Maze also takes the initiative to host pop-up storytime sessions at street corners for kids of all ages and has donated thousands of free books to children through her pop-up events so far. She has even implemented the idea of book vending machines where people can access books at zero cost.
Before becoming a librarian, Maze used to be a teacher and was giving away books to kids from her home library which eventually evolved into what is known as Storybook Maze. "When I first started working as a librarian, I realized that the kids who were coming in weren’t the same ones I was reading to out on my front stoop. I wanted to think of innovative and engaging ways to reintroduce those kids to the idea of reading," Maze told the outlet. Maze revealed that she is always looking for locations with high foot traffic and places regularly visited by the target community and kids.
"We focus on Black neighborhoods. But also, use a book desert [map] from Unite for Literacy, which has identified areas where children are estimated to have between zero and 10 books at home," she continued. "We know that when kids have books that they can relate to and can see themselves in, they’re more eager to read. For us, this means books with Black characters, who live in neighborhoods like our kids live in and reflect their lives. We also talk to community leaders, teachers, and organizations in the area and see where they think kids need support the most. Some kids need more positive affirmations, so we give them a book like 'I Am Amazing!'" Maze added.
Recently one of her videos on TikTok received over 2 million views where she can be seen gifting kids with the exact kind of books they might like. Since not every kid has money to splurge at book fairs, she made an effort to secretly learn about the likes and interests of a bunch of kids and gifted them their respective books. One kid who loved the character of Sonic the Hedgehog received a book on the character. Another kid received a book on Minecraft. One kid received a book titled "My Life As A YouTuber" and he jumped with joy and excitement over receiving it.
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The TikTok audience was overwhelmed to see Maze putting so much effort towards promoting literacy and they flooded the comment section with positive remarks. @mistamojorisin wrote, "I was one of those kids that never got book fair money, this made me tear up." @kiwiflavoredkat suggested, "If you haven’t already, check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. They may be willing to partner with you or something similar. You are amazing!!" @munson_xbb commented, "I remember growing up not being able to get much until my big sister came and bought me a couple of stuff. I remember a SpongeBob bookmark the most."