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A New Jersey 6th-Grader Met Her Goal to Find 1,000 Black Girl Books. Here’s Why it Matters.

  in 
February 16, 2016

Tuesday marked “mission accomplished” for one New Jersey sixth-grader on a quest to find 1,000 books with characters that look like her.

In November, 11-year-old Marley Dias started the #1000BlackGirlBooks drive. She was frustrated last school year by the books her fifth-grade teacher assigned about “white boys and their dogs” without much variation.

“I understood that my teacher could connect with those characters, so he asked us to read those books,” Dias told the Guardian. “But I didn’t relate to them, so I didn’t learn lessons from those stories.”

When her mom, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, asked Marley what she was going to do about it, Dias turned her frustration into action to launch a successful campaign with the help of GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a social-action organization that her mom co-founded.

“All the questions that Marley has, I never thought about,” her mother said. “I didn’t know this was so frustrating to her. I didn’t know her experience of sitting in a classroom and she doesn’t see herself reflected.”

Marley plans on donating the collection to her school, St. Cloud Elementary in West Orange, and to a school in Jamaica, the country from which her mother emigrated.

Unfortunately, the lack of diversity in the children’s book industry makes it easy for Dias and other children of color to be overlooked as readers.

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