Marley Dias isn’t your average sixth grader. Not all sixth graders can raise money to buy more than 1,000 books. And her quest doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
The 11-year-old from West Orange, N.J., grew frustrated with the lack of diversity in the books she received in school. So she launched a campaign to collect #1000blackgirlbooks, which went viral.
“I started this because in my fifth-grade class I was only able to read books about white boys and their dogs. I understood that my teacher could connect with those characters, so he asked us to read those books. But I didn’t relate to them, so I didn’t learn lessons from those stories,” she told the Guardian newspaper.
Marley started receiving donations of both books and money. Bookstores such as Barnes and Noble donated books. Book publisher Stacked Books gave $3,000, and the Internet-based image publishing firm Shutterfly donated $10,000.
The books have African-American protagonists and are about African-American culture. Some of her favorites are the award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, and I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. Of 3,500 children’s books surveyed in 2014, just 84 were by Africans or African-Americans, and just 180 featured African or African-American characters, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.
Marley has surpassed her goal of 1,000 books for her school, but she hopes that people keep donating so she can pass on the books to other schools. And she’s become a media celebrity, with appearances on Ellen and the Nightly Show, just to name a few.
On her appearance on the Nightly Show, Marley said she had received congratulations from many quarters, including from white boys with dogs. “I think they’re sick of reading those books, too,” she told host Larry Wilmore.
You can watch Marley talking about books on the Nightly Show by clicking here.