Reading & Literacy

Student Launches #1000BlackGirlBooks Book Drive for Jamaican School

By Ross Brenneman — January 26, 2016 1 min read
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New Jersey student Marley Dias is on a mission: to collect 1,000 books that feature black girls as protagonists, and donate them to a Jamaican school.

Dias, an 11-year-old Philadelphia native, kicked off the #1000BlackGirlBooks drive in late 2015, but new attention from local media has pushed her campaign into the spotlight.

Speaking to Philadelphia news station Fox 29, Dias said the idea came up when she was talking to her mom about the dearth of literary heroes that she could relate to.

“In my 5th grade class, we were only reading books about white boys and their dogs, and I understood why my teacher wanted us to read those books because those are the books he could connect with, but I didn’t necessarily connect with them myself so I was really frustrated,” she said.

From 1994 through 2012, only about 10 percent of children’s books featured people of color, according to data collected by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

The #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign has already amassed more than 400 books, and hopes to collect the rest by Feb. 1. The books will be donated to Retreat Primary and Junior School and Library in St. Mary, Jamaica, where Dias’ mom, Johnson Dias, lived as a child.

Along with two of her friends, Dias also leads “BAM,” a social support network for adolescent girls organized through the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, which was established by Johnson Dias.

Donations can be sent to: GrassROOTS Community Foundation, 59 Main Street, Suite 323, West Orange, N.J. 07052

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.