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An 11-Year-Old Confronts a Lack of Diversity in Reading

Bethany Sadler-Jasmin | Jan 17, 2017 at 02:00 PM
Bethany Sadler-Jasmin

It’s not every day you see an 11-year-old with as much spark, charisma, and commitment as a seasoned, professional public speaker give a talk to a room full of people.

Marley Dias is one of those 11-year-olds. As she took the stage at INBOUND 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts, to present as a "Bold Talk" speaker, she instantly enthralled me. Marley was incredibly well spoken, engaging, and passionate.  I realized very quickly that even as children, we don’t like to live our lives confined by any one else’s expectations. In fact – Marley speaks for us all in the way that she purposefully breaks out of them.

As a young reader, Marley started to see that none of the books she was reading in school featured black girls as main characters. Feeling frustrated by this lack of diversity and noting the impact it has on her and on other students, she started the #1000blackgirlbooks Campaign.

Marley made it her mission to collect 1,000 books featuring black girls as main characters. Reading stories where she could relate to the character(s) and sharing those stories with other students meant that kids from all walks of life could learn about the lives of all members of their communities.

During her INBOUND Marketing “Bold Talk,” she spoke about the process of starting her campaign, pointing out the intense lack of black main characters in children’s books.  She credited her family and spoke about how as parents it’s important to teach your children to stand up for what they believe in and to support them in their personal missions.  It was eye-opening and inspiring.

As Marley finished her talk, the entire room stood up to clap and cheer. She pulled down confidently on her blazer, adjusted her stylish glasses, smiled and took an energetic bow - forever to leave an imprint on me.

Marley’s campaign exceeded its goal and now continues to maintain a resource guide listing over 1,000 books with black girls as main characters.

“I love reading and I love reading all kinds of books. I think it is important that if we want the world to be a better place where everyone feels welcomed and understood then we must ensure that children have books about black girls, and all kinds of people, not just white boys and dogs.” – Marley Dias

What are some of your students' favorite stories that bring diversity into your school library? Let us know in the comments.

To view more info or to contribute to Marley’s campaign, visit http://grassrootscommunityfoundation.org/1000-black-girl-books-resource-guide/#1458589376556-1fa71d56-6d86

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