For 6-year-old Zuri Hudson Stanbrough, reading is the best thing in the entire world.
“Reading is my favorite, favorite, favorite thing,” she says.
Zuri Hudson’s parents, Raven Jones Stanbrough and Darryl Stanbrough are both educators and want to see more kids with a love of reading as strong as their daughter’s. They started the Zuri Reads Initiative in 2017 with the goal to “leverage resources to fill that literacy gap.”
“We started the Zuri Reads Initiative to provide more representation and resources for families and children to gather for literacy support,” Raven says. “That led to us hosting our monthly family literacy nights.”
“We definitely want children to think critically and we need to affirm their lived experiences and reading and books help with that,” Raven adds.
Now in its fifth year, the Zuri Reads Initiative has outgrown its original space and moved to the Detroit Public Library Redford Branch, the location Raven grew up visiting.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some of the events have now gone virtual, but there are still dedicated times for families to stop by and pick up free children’s books. When the initiative holds events in person again, every third Sunday of the month, from 3-4:30 p.m., families can stop by for free books, food, clothing and more.
Who is Zuri?
Zuri Hudson says she loves when she’s able to help other kids at the events with reading or drawing activities.
“I’ve made friends at the event, too,” she says. “But I know who my best friend is — my mom!”
When not planning events or working on special literacy projects, Zuri Hudson and her mom are currently guest editing the spring 2022 edition of the Michigan Reading Journal.
Zuri also loves to sing. She recently started singing lessons, and her favorite songs are from The Wiz and the Ghostbusters theme. In addition, she also runs a YouTube, where she posts videos about college, Black history, reading and more for a segment called Word Up Wednesdays.
“Usually I talk about exercising, meditating, and stretching,” she says. “I also talk about math and word puzzles.”
“I have a lot of viewers,” she adds.
While the family literacy nights and YouTube channel are a lot of fun for Zuri Hudson, Raven says the impact of the initiative is more meaningful than that.
“As a Black woman and child, it’s important to see ourselves out here and to change the narrative,” Raven says. “Literacy is important in the lives of people of color.”
“It’s important for young people to be exposed to different protagonists and character development and ideas that mirror their own experiences,” she adds. “It means a lot to see that representation and it helps kids develop their vocab and their sense of belonging–perhaps they will take a liking to something if they can relate to it.”
Four ways to help kids read better
- Find a book you relate to — Zuri Hudson’s favorite book, Hair Love, features a young girl with the same name who has similarly textured hair. “This book is special because the dad is doing Zuri’s hair–it’s all about my afros, my funky braids, my big pony tails!” Plus, in the book, the dad makes breakfast, goes to the park and on bike rides, “all the things I do with my dad!”
- Dedicate time to reading – There’s only one way to learn to read, says Zuri Hudson: “Practice, practice, practice.” “You won’t learn to read if you don’t practice,” she says.
- If you get stumped, use your reading tools – “If I don’t know a word and I don’t know what it says, I sound it out,” Zuri says. “I blend it all together and then go back and start the sentence from the beginning.”
- Take time to get to know who you’re reading with – Raven, Zuri Hudson’s mom, is a professor at Michigan State University’s teaching college. She says when reading with children “It starts with building relationships–you can’t teach a child anything without forging relationships with them, take for instance, if you aren’t saying their name correctly.”
You can pick up a free book, as part of the Zuri Reads Initiative, at the Detroit Public Library Redford Branch every third Sunday of the month.
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