Young activist collects #1000BlackGirlBooks

Marley Dias launched #1000BlackGirlBooks to collect books with main characters that looked like her.
Photo by Janice Johnson Dias

At 11-years-old, what was your biggest concern in school? Figuring out what was for lunch or perhaps counting the hours of the day until recess and then dismissal?

For 11-year-old Marley Dias, her focus is clearly set on being the change she would like to see — starting with reading books that contain main characters that look like her.

The New Jersey fifth grader made the impactful decision that she will not only collect books that featured a black girl as the protagonist, but that she will collect 1000 books and subsequently donate them back to her mother’s hometown of St. Mary, Jamaica.

According to Dias, “It’s definitely important to us because my mom didn’t have as many opportunities to read so now we’re going to give as many books as we possibly can.”

Her decision to start this journey back in November began after confiding in her mother that she no longer wanted to read stories about little white boys and dogs assigned to her at school because it did not relate to her.

In a statement, Dias explains: “My parents have taught me the value of reading and self-love through books that have characters that look like me and talk like me. I want to make sure other black girls around the world can see and love themselves, too, through these books.”

The rising activist has not yet discussed her project with the teacher who unintentionally sparked her project despite some teachers at her school pitching in.

“I’m still even kind’ve intimidated to talk to him. I know that he’s an open minded person and he was never really upset with me but it’s still nerve-wracking because I’ve started a whole movement because of something he did that made me angry,” she said.

Her fierce determination has been met by an overwhelming response. Though the book donations lagged at first, to date, Dias has collected 850 books and is only 150 books away from reaching her goal of 1000 by Feb. 11.

“At the beginning we were having little to no books come in but around the new year, that’s when everything came into full swing, getting 50 books a day,” she explained.

Dias and her mother will head to St. Mary, Jamaica where they will hand-deliver the books to both a local school and library.

“I definitely think it is important that I go and give the books myself because I feel like if I was to get something in the mail I would also like to see the person who gave it to me, who spent their time working, and I feel like it will be more of a connection,” she said.

This is just the beginning for Dias. Not only does she intend to head #1000BlackGirlBooks again, she plans to possibly increase her numbers.

“I definitely want to make #1000BlackGirlBooks an annual thing. I’ve had a lot of fun this year and I hope we can continue it next year,” she stated.

To get involved and donate, visit

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aoliv[email protected] Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.
Marley Dias will donate #1000BlackGirlBooks to a school and library in her mother’s hometown in Jamaica.
Photo by Mark Wills

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