BALTIMORE — In 48 seconds, Araba Maze explains how she went from an aunt reading storybooks, to a finalist in the United Way’s Baltimore County Changemaker Challenge.
Watch the video here:
If she wins on Wednesday night, she plans to use the $25,000 in grant money to put free book vending machines in Baltimore’s book deserts.
When she finished reading to children on her front stoop, the kids who had joined her asked what she’d be reading next.
“Just go home and read a book,” Maze recalls telling them. “And they were like, ‘we don’t have any books at home.'”
She suggested the library, but the kids told her their parents wouldn’t take them, or they didn’t have a library card.
“You can live near your library where you still don’t have book access,” she says, “because there’s still a lot of barriers.”
Maze hopes that by putting in free book vending machines, it will create an excitement for kids to build their own collection of books.
To reach the kids with the most barriers to access, Maze has been working with different venues for the vending machines.
“We’re talking to, right now, some barber shops, a laundromat, we’re hoping to do the Milford Mill Subway stations or bus stops,” she tells WMAR-2 News.
She’s also hoping to get them installed in the lobbies of low income housing units.
As for where the books are coming from, Maze says, the social media attention has been very helpful.
“We do have a pipeline of books coming in largely thanks to the viral TikTok video, we’ve gotten so much support. We’ve partnered with the Maryland Book Bank, Hindi Libraries Bluestar Press, have all agreed to set up a monthly donations of new books,” she says.
She also has an Amazon wishlist set up for people who would like to donate.
Maze will find out if she’s won any grant money on Wednesday night at the United Way’s 6pm live event.