Marley Dias, 17, Leads Campaign to Diversify Assigned Books for Students

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In elementary school, the closest thing to Black literature offered to me was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In high school, the only Black book I read was A Raisin in the Sun. by Lorraine Hansberry. The majority of literature on the syllabi revolved around white men or white women. Marley Diasa 17-year-old author and activist, plans to change that issue for students who share that experience.

Dias spoke to Kate Couric Media about the inspiration behind her campaign. Dias said when she was 10 years old, her mom asked her what she could do to fix the issues she noticed at school. She told her mom one issue was the lack of books about Black girls in her curriculum.

“When I realized that a lack of diversity in required reading was an issue across multiple grades and multiple schools, I knew I had to do something about it. Instead of just letting me complain, my mom always wants me to take action, ”Dias said via GLAMOR.

Thus the # 1000BlackGirlBooks campaign was born.

More on the campaign from GLAMOR:

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.”

Slides constructed a database as a part of the campaign to help students and educators find Black girl books across all genres and also allow people to donate them. Dias told Kate Couric Media it’s important to study “classic” literature but also to “feature modern stories that disrupt the way we think about how our society is framed.”

She also published her own book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can Youin 2018. She also hosted Netflix series Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, reading children’s books written by Black authors. Dias was also the youngest person listed in Forbes’ 30 under 30 List at 13 years old.

Dias’ dedication toward literary diversity is just what our youth needs at a time when the legislature has attempted to ban books from library shelves.

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