New Jersey 11-year-old sparks change with book drive aimed at diversity

Changemakers
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“I love to read,” Marley Dias smiled.

She’s smart. She’s serious. And she’s making a mark.

“I was able to collect 7,000 books and I’ve donated to six different cities,” she said.

Dias is a girl with a mission that started inside her West Orange, New Jersey, classroom.

“I wasn’t seeing black girls represented in the books we were reading,” she said. “I wasn’t seeing characters like me or diverse experiences.”

This 11-year-old is changing that with one simple hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks to find stories in which black girls are the main characters.

“There are other girls, your age reading books, but you’re the first person that said nobody in these books relate to me, why is that?” I asked. “I wouldn’t say I’m the first person who ever said it, but I’m probably one of the first people who ever took action about it,” she replied.

Marley is just touching the surface of a much larger issue. Only about eight percent of children’s books released in 2015 were about people of color, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. While that number has increased over the years, many schools have an older selection.

“I didn’t actually tell my teacher about the issue, I decided to do it in a different way,” Marley explained. “I knew how to find diverse books in my community but I wanted to do it for other communities that I know do not have these resources.”

Communities like rural St. Mary, Jamaica where she made her first donation to a primary school. But, her impact is being felt across the literary world. We visited the New York Public Library, where they’ve developed a collection just for her cause.

“These are some of the books on the list that the New York Public Library created for me,” she showed us. “‘One Crazy Summer’ is my favorite!”

“What is it like to know that the library now has a list based on your recommendations of books?” I asked. “It’s very cool, I think it’s interesting at how I’ve been able to make an impact,” she smiled.

And from what we saw, that influence is already connecting with the next generation.

Marley aspires to someday write her own book, but first wants to achieve her dream job of being an editor-in-chief for a lifestyle/fashion magazine.

Check out the NYPL’s #1000BlackGirlsBooks Campaign’s book list  and find out more information about their Summer Reading Challenge.

Those who would like to donate books to Marley’s drive can sent them to:

GrassROOTS
#1000blackgirlbooks
59 Main Street
Suite 323
West Orange, NJ 07052

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