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Marley Dias

Reading books can be an exciting escape. You can learn about far-off places and take part in wonderful adventures. But what if none of the characters in your books were like you? How would that make you feel?

For Marley Dias, it is frustrating. She has noticed that the books she reads in school are rarely about black girls like her. She wants this to change. She wants students to read about all types of people — not just one type. To make a change, she started by setting a goal to collect 1,000 books with black girls as the main character. Read our interview with Marley to see if she met her goal and what she's learned along the way.

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How old are you?

I am 11 years old.

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How did you get the idea for #1000BlackGirlBooks?

I came up with the idea of creating #1000BlackGirlBooks while I was in 6th grade. In my 5th-grade class, the books I had to read did not have any diverse characters. All the books focused on one type of central character. These books, such as Where the Red Fern Grows and the Shiloh series, all had a white boy and his dog as the main characters. While I had books about black girls at home, we did not read books like that at school.

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Why is it important to read books about different types of people?

I think it is important that books reflect the world we live in and the people who are reading them. Our society has lots of different people and there are kids of all races, ethnicities, religions, and family types in my classes. I think the books we read should reflect all of us. When our stories are missing, it can suggest that these stories do not matter.

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Did you make your goal, and what did you do with all those books?

My goal was to collect 1,000 books. I thought of the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks and the idea of a community book drive. I started collecting donated books in my hometown. As my project grew more popular, I received donations from all over the world. I have now collected over 7,000 books, and donated them to communities that need books and communities that need diverse books.

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What was the most surprising part of this project?

I am surprised that there are books out there with diverse characters that are not making their way into our schools. When I found out that Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia had won the Newbery award, which is like the Oscars in the book world, I had to ask: Why are books like this not included in our schools' curriculum? These have been recognized as some of the best books out there. I want to do my part and make sure that school administrators, teachers, and kids all know that these books are out there. I want them to know that black girls' stories, like black girls' voices, matter, and I feel they should be included in schools.

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What is your favorite book and why?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. It was a gift from my Titi Eva (my aunt) on my 9th birthday. I tried to read it and couldn't understand it. This was really strange for me. I am an avid reader, so this book was my first reading challenge. It is a book written in verse, like a poem. The style and content were new for me. I put it on my shelf and waited until my 10th birthday to try to read it again. I finally understood it and I loved it. It is my favorite book because of the experience of going from not understanding to understanding. It taught me that time can solve a lot of problems. It taught me patience, and it made me more humble about my talents.

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Do you have another project in the works?

Yes, I have two projects in the works. I am working on a book. I am also trying to work with the people who make the decisions about which books to teach in schools. I want to share with them why I think it is important to include diverse stories in school, so I am speaking more. I also am working on a literacy tour that brings books to kids outside of school.

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What advice do you have for other girls who are trying to reach big goals?

No goal is too big. I thought 1,000 books was a lot a year ago. But my success has shown me that there is more I can do, so I am making a bigger goal. My new goal is 1 million books! I want to give away 1 million books to kids all over the world who do not have access to books.

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What's your advice for girls who want to get involved in their community but aren't sure how?

Start with what you love. Do something that you are passionate about because it's hard to get people excited about something if you don't love it. Also, share your goals with those who love and trust you, and ask for help.

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Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Girls really matter. Whether it is in books or in the rest of the world, more attention must be given to issues that matter to girls. Over the past year, I have learned a lot of things. I feel that girls often do not get the support we need to be our best selves. I think it is really important that we start listening to girls. Those who say they care about girls must invest in us and help us so we can help the world.

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Learn more about discovering your interests and talents, how to set goals for your future, and how to give back to your community.

Content last reviewed October 4, 2016
Page last updated October 4, 2016

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.