“White boys and their dogs” have had a good run. But it's time for something new.
What sorts of books did you read in elementary school?
I remember a few: "Maniac Magee," "The Phantom Tollbooth," "Old Yeller." Great books, to be sure, but they all have something sorta disappointing in common: They revolve around white boys and the occasional canine companion.
For New Jersey fifth-grader Marley Dias, that just wasn’t going to work.
“I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” she told the Philly Voice. Marley wanted to read about characters she could relate to instead, characters who looked like her and acted like her.
So she decided to do something about it. And that something has gotten pretty big.
After brainstorming with her mom, Janice, Marley launched a book drive asking people to send her children’s stories about female characters of color. The drive started trending on Twitter with #1000BlackGirlBooks, and the momentum just keeps growing.
By Jan. 19, 2016, Marley had collected 400 books. By Feb. 1, that number was up to 700. She says she’ll donate all additional contributions to St. Cloud Elementary School in West Orange, New Jersey. Not too shabby for just over a month of campaigning. And Marley’s cause is still starting dialogues and gaining attention, especially online.
#1000BlackGirlBooks has sparked awesome conversations about diversity in publishing on Twitter.
I just contributed these 4 books to #1000BlackGirlBooks Happy reading :) https://t.co/emRNBzzV3vpic.twitter.com/5Etdf8iHYS
— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) January 27, 2016
Marley Dias and her #1000BlackGirlBooks movement is one of my favorite things to ever happen on book-twitter. 💗 https://t.co/2KtfZSVOlL
— Amy Shearn (@amyshearn) February 9, 2016
Thanks @BNBuzz for publishing a list of books for black girls of any age. https://t.co/bYvWKdDzPE. #1000BlackGirlBooks
— GrassROOTS (GCF) (@GrassRootsFound) February 7, 2016
Plus, you know your cause is a big deal when you end up on "Ellen."
Ellen couldn’t help but contribute $10,000 to Marley’s book drive, and she gave Marley a personal laptop to help her brainstorm her next big move, too.
Marley is upbeat and eloquent (plus, her glasses game is seriously on point).
And let’s not forget that Marley is 11. ELEVEN. When I was 11, I couldn’t even put a pair of tights on straight without assistance. (To be honest, this is something I still struggle with. Those seams.) But this kid is spearheading an impressive campaign and grabbing much-deserved national attention for her mission.
With diversity in America on the rise — 50.4% of children in the U.S. age 1 or younger were minorities as of July 2011 — Marley’s mission is becoming more important than ever.
As of July 2011, 50.4% of children in the U.S. (age 1 or younger) were minorities. That representation isn’t really present in most children’s books.
Marley is well past her original goal of 1,000 books, so what could be next for this rockstar?
Student-body president? Space camp? Whatever it is, Marley’s sure to succeed.
She’s not afraid to be — or in this case, read — the change she wants to see in the world.