A lesson that 15-year-old entrepreneur, storyteller, performer, and podcaster, Ssanyu Lukoma, has embraced amid the journey of her nonprofit organization, Brown Kids Read Inc., is that the worst thing someone can say is ‘no.’ “Whenever I want to ask people to help support Brown Kids Read or I want to ask people to get people involved in this contest or do something, I always think that it’s best to ask and not be afraid to put yourself out there,” she tells So Booking Cool.
The organization, which features children’s books for all ages about and by people of color, was initially a promotional event that Lukoma helped facilitate for two young authors. The then thirteen-year-old already owned a jewelry line and Pathways Entertainment, a company that specializes in children’s events/activities/parties.
Between her love for literature, entrepreneurial spirit, desire to make a difference, and the event’s positive reception, expanding it into Brown Kids Read Inc. seemed like a natural progression for the high school student. “I wanted to find a way to inspire people at the same time as doing what I love,” the executive director shares. “And when I saw the looks on those kids’ faces when they saw the books, it just really sunk in for me that this is a way that I can reach people and bless people, and just get them excited about reading as a whole.”
In addition to increasing the accessibility of diverse children’s books, Brown Kids Read contains The Book Junkie Podcast, in which Lukoma converses with her friends and peers about YA books. She has also interviewed authors including Nic Stone, Kacen Callender, Lisa Allen-Agostini, and teen author from India, Manavi Nag. The podcast isn’t just about Lukoma introducing people to literature; the books provide talking points for issues that matter to teenagers. Among the topics she is looking forward to engaging on her show is voting.
Watch the interview to learn more about Lukoma including what it’s like being a businesswoman at 15; her process for featuring books and some of the new initiatives at Brown Kids Read; the authors she thinks are changing children’s publishing for the better; her reading tastes and habits; conspiracy theories related to books; the research she says she’s done regarding the benefits of reading; the time she discovered that her peers were not reading diversely; and more! For more information, visit the official Brown Kids Read website.