17-Year-Old Marley Dias Starts #1000BlackGirlBooks Campaign to Help Schools Diversify Required Reading for Students

10-year-old Marley Dias was sitting in a diner with her mom when they shared a conversation that would change the course of her life—and countless others. “My mom asked me what I thought I could do to improve or fix the issues that I was observing in school,” Dias, now 17, says. She told her mom, that day in the diner, that most, if not all, of the required reading in her school’s fifth- and sixth-grade curriculum centered around white male protagonists. She thought that students should be exposed to books that featured diverse voices and unique experiences.

Her solution was a grassroots campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks. The initial goal of the campaign was to collect 1,000 physical books that centered around the stories of Black girls. It eventually expanded to include the creation of a searchable database that would make it easier for teachers, parents, and students to find those stories. “We review all of the books to make sure they have Black girls as protagonists, characters of African descent, or the stories of Black women and girls,” Dias says.

“I thought that this lack of literary diversity just existed in my town. But my mom challenged my thinking and encouraged me to research more,” Dias says. That’s when she learned that less than  10 percent of the books published in 2015 had Black main characters. The statistic would drive her as she expanded her vision not just to change her own school district, but “districts across America and across the world.”

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