Raven L. Jones: Providing Equitable Literacy Access for All
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back, friends! It's Spiffy, your trusty interplanetary journalist back again with an eye on changemaking leaders making Planet Earth a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Raven L. Jones, the co-founder of The Zuri Reads Initiative. Let’s see what she’s been up to!
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Raven! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Raven: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! We believe in equitable literacy access for all! More than just encompassing the ability to read and write, literacy is essential for developing critical thinking skills, educational opportunities, and building sustainable communities. Since 2017, “The Zuri Reads Initiative,” (TZRI) has provided literacy access, events, and resources for children, students, and families across Metropolitan Detroit and beyond. Seeking to do our part in addressing the widening literacy gap(s) occurring across educative communities, our goal is to take literacy to the people!
Spiffy: That is wonderful! What motivates you to do it?
Raven: “The Zuri Reads Initiative” is named after my seven-year-old daughter, Zuri Hudson Stanbrough. I remain deeply inspired by her brilliance and the ways in which she advocates for herself and others. At just seven months old, her first word was “book.” She is the co-founder of TZRI and continues to be my thought and accountability partner with planning our monthly family literacy nights, co-facilitating writing workshops and STEAM webinars, and providing literacy materials into the hearts, hands, and homes of youth and families.
Spiffy: How would you describe the impact of your work?
Raven: Operating from the African adage that “It takes a village to raise a child,” our impact continues to reach children, youth, and families. As a Black mother and daughter, our love for our heritage and community motivates us to ensure that what we put out into the world is culturally sustaining, centers joy, and affirms the voices and experiences of those from marginalized communities. We continue to partner with schools, community organizations, colleges and universities, and other institutions to share our love of literacy and social justice.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or your organization. What impact does that make?
Raven: Recently, we served as guest co-editors of the Michigan Reading Journal and published our special issue: “’Rooting to Rise”’: Centering Student Voices & Equitable Literacy Practices Through Joy and Social Justice.” Our special issue features the writings, artwork, and scholarship of Pre-K-12 grade students, literacy scholars, and educators, who are committed to reimagining a more humanizing world. Zuri Hudson and I are proud to have co-created something that will remain in our family forever. Additionally, our literacy and STEAM work was also recognized by the Cranbrook Institute of Science.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Raven: Looking ahead, Zuri Hudson and I will continue to co-host more literacy events locally. Likewise, we are planning to expand our literacy work through a partnership at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Next month, the Michigan Reading Association is recognizing Zuri Hudson as a “30 Under 30” Honoree for her literacy advocacy and work with “The Zuri Reads Initiative.” Similarly, we are also excited to co-facilitate a teacher professional development workshop at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Our overall purpose is to serve our communities with gladness and make our ancestors proud!
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Raven—it’s been an honor!
Raven L. Jones and Zuri Hudson Stanbrough are the co-founders of “The Zuri Reads Initiative,” which provides literacy access and resources to children, youth, and families. Their literacy work has been recognized by the Detroit Public Library, the Cranbrook Institute of Science, the Michigan Reading Journal, WDIV Channel 4 News, Metro Parent Magazine, the Detroit Free Press, and other organizations. They are advocates of children’s laughter, tacos, and traveling. (Nominated by Jasmin C. DeForrest of the Gilbert Family Foundation. First published on the Ladderworks website on March 3, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.