Marley Dias is a St. Cloud elementary school student in West Orange, New Jersey. Starting in November of last year, she grew tired of the books she was reading at school. The majority of these books focused on white characters, and she wanted books that represented her. Dias and her mother, Janice Johnson Dias, started the #1000BlackGirlBooks drive to improve the variety of the books because representation matters.
According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marley has a valid point when it comes to the lack of racial diversity in children’s books. They report that in 2014 there were 3,500 children books received by the CCBC, but only 180 of that total were about Black characters, and only 84 were created by Black writers.
“I started this because in my fifth-grade class I was only able to read books about white boys and their dogs. I understood that my teacher could connect with those characters, so he asked us to read those books. But I didn’t relate to them, so I didn’t learn lessons from those stories,” Dias told The Guardian.
After just a few months, the donations began to pour in.
Barnes and Noble donated books to the drive. Shutterfly gave Dias a laptop and $10,000 for the initiative. Writer Kelly Jensen at Stacked Books coordinated a donation effort that garnered $3,000 to Dias’ cause.
Dias plans to put the donations to good use immediately.
“We are having a book festival and donating them to the parish of St. Mary in Jamaica where my mother is from,” she said. “I also plan on donating to schools in Newark, Philadelphia and West Orange. The Lee school in Philadelphia, Speedway Elementary School in Newark, and in West Orange my elementary school … where my frustration began.”
As of today, Dias has reached her goal of finding 1,000 “Black girl books” because representation matters.