11-Year-Old Launches #1000BlackGirlBooks, Because She’s Tired of Reading About White Boys

Supergirl Marley Dias, an 11-year-old from New Jersey, was sick of her fifth grade teacher assigning novels featuring only white boys and their dogs. So she launched a campaign that aims to collect and donate 1,000 books that feature black girls as protagonists.

Dias, who is originally from Philadelphia, although she now lives in New Jersey, kicked off the #1000BlackGirlBooks drive in late 2015.

Speaking to Philadelphia news station Fox 29, Dias said the idea was born over dinner one night when she was complaining to her mom about the lack of people who look like her in the books she’s assigned to read in school. 

As Philly Voice reports:

“I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” Dias said, pointing specifically to “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the “Shiloh” series. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.”

Dias’s mom, Janice Johnson Dias, is from Jamaica, and on February 13, those books are going to be donated to Retreat Primary School in St. Mary, Jamaica, where she grew up. She explains why it was her daughter who had to bring up this issue with her assigned reading:

“I didn’t need identification, or I didn’t desire it because I grew up in an all-black country,” Janice told PhillyVoice. “She’s not growing up in an all-black country; she’s growing up in a fairly white suburb, in a country that only has 12.6 percent of blacks. For her, identification is a bigger deal. … For young black girls in the U.S., context is really important for them — to see themselves and have stories that reflect experiences that are closer to what they have or their friends have.”

It turns out that this is just the latest of a number of social action projects for this amazing fifth grader.

Dias also heads up “BAM” with two of her friends — Briana and Amina – a social support network for adolescent girls organized through the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, which was established by Johnson Dias.


Photo Credit: Screenshot from Fox 29

In addition, over the past year, Dias has received a Disney Friends for Change grant, having written the proposal herself, and she has traveled to Ghana to help serve food to orphans.

And with her #1000BlackGirlBooks, Dias has highlighted an ongoing problem with both children’s and young adult literature: the under-representation of minorities. According to data collected by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), from 1994 through 2012, only about 10 percent of children’s books featured non-white people.

In 2014, the CCBC brought more positive news, as the number of books about people of color jumped to 14 percent; this is based on the 3,000 to 3,500 books that CCBC reviews annually. 

Another disturbing fact was that many books with characters from a particular culture are being written by authors not from that culture. The CCBC found, for example, that in 2014, there were 393 books published about people of color, and that 225 of these, or 57 percent, were produced by authors and illustrators who were not from the culture that was the focus of their book.

Perhaps if Dias keeps her eagle-eye focus on these issues, things could really change.

The development of reading skills is vital for young children, and being able to connect and identify with the characters they are reading about will only make them want to read more. 

Thanks to her mom, Marley Dias has been surrounded by books since birth, but now this young woman has taken things into her own hands to improve the quality of her reading material. Congratulations to Ms. Dias!



Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nellie K Adaba
Nellie A3 years ago

There are books in libraries and shops about brown skin people, but may be she didn't find any, and that's why she wants to write her own stories.

Nellie K Adaba
Nellie A3 years ago

I wish her the best, though I realise she is too colour conscous, self-aware. I read books, watch shows and movies, not because the characters look or don't look like me, but because I like the story. She can write her own stories if she wants. Stories I identify with are Alice in Wonderland, Calvin & Hobbes, etc, and they are not even the same skin colour as me.

Nellie K Adaba
Nellie A3 years ago

Good for her, but there plenty for books about "black" kids in the library and book stores. I read stories not because it's about black or white person, but because I like the story, but in America there is this "race" issue.

Sarah Hill
Sarah H3 years ago

Sounds like she needs a trip to the library! I don't think I have ever read a book about a white boy and his dog. I have seen the movie "Ole Yeller" though.

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen3 years ago

Oddly enough being white and male I have NEVER read a book (or story) about a boy (white or otherwise) and his dog. The closest thing were the "The Famous Five" childrens book series by the English author Enid Blyton, where the five protagonists were 2 boys, 2 girls (one of which behaved a lot like a boy) and a dog. I did read a series of boys books where the protagonist was a white boy, but no dog involved. I also grew up with the brilliant works of Astrid Lindgren (Pippi longstockings, Emil from Lönneberga, The Brothers Lionheart etc.) -ok lots of white kids, but what do you expect from stories taking place in yesteryears Sweden? Beside this I very much enjoyed the Tarzan books, the works of Ridder Hagard and the works of Kipling - plenty coloured people in those books.

But stories about white boys and their dogs - whats that ?

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Allow everyone their right to thrive

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Cela V.
Cela V3 years ago


Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

What an inspiring, joyous story!! Marley has a huge future ahead of her!! Thanks for posting.