This 11-Year-Old Wants To Help Kids Discover Books They Can Relate To

The sixth grader was frustrated that she wasn't reading books about little black girls in school, so she started #1000BlackGirlBooks.
Marley Dias poses enthusiastically at a book drive at Lingelbach Elementary School in Philadelphia.
Marley Dias poses enthusiastically at a book drive at Lingelbach Elementary School in Philadelphia.
Courtesy of Marley Dias

Eleven-year-old Marley Dias told her mom she was "sick of reading books about white boys and dogs."

The sixth grader from New Jersey told The Huffington Post that she loves to read, but that she has a hard time relating to the characters in the required books she reads in school because she has nothing in common with them.

"I was frustrated... in fifth grade where I wasn't reading [books with] a character that I could connect with," she told HuffPost.

Her mom, Janice Dias, asked Marley what she planned on doing about it. At first, Marley said that she decided to create a book guide which would feature black characters, but she ultimately decided to take her idea a step further. So she initiated #1000BlackGirlBooks in November, a book drive where she collected books in which black girls were the main characters -- not the sidekicks or background characters.

Marley, who works with her mom's organization GrassROOTS Community Foundation, plans to collect 1000 books by Feb. 1, to donate to children. On Feb. 11, she'll travel to her mom's hometown, St. Mary, Jamaica, to host a book festival and give the books to schools and libraries. Marley said she hopes this book drive helps more young black girls read about characters they can relate to. So far, she's collected nearly 500 books.

"I know there's a lot of black girl books out there, I just haven't read them," she said. "So if we started this I would find them and other people would be able to read them, as well."

However, Marley's budding career in philanthropy started long before #1000BlackGirlBooks. Last year, Marley won a Disney Friends for Change grant to teach girls how to tap into their talents at a youth empowerment camp and gave food to orphans in Ghana. She also regularly serves food at a soup kitchen with two of her peers as a part of their nonprofit, BAM, which stands for the first letter in the three girls' names -- Briana, Amina and Marley.

Marley credits most of her ambitious desire to help others to her mom, but she admits her more creative side comes from her dad.

"I write everyday," she said, in reference to her blog. Marley said she wants to become a magazine editor when she grows up and she hopes to maybe even write a book of her own for young girls like her one day.

"[Representation] definitely matters because when you read a book and you learn something, you always want to have something you can connect with," she said. "If you have something in common with the characters, you'll always remember and learn a lesson from the book."

To find out more about #1000BlackGirlBooks, visit Marley's website.

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