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diversity in reading
Photograph by Lydia Liu

A Young Girl’s Leadership on Diversity in School Reading with #1000BlackGirlBooks

In a tumultuous world, stepping up and creating social change is needed more than ever. Whether it be a problem nationally or locally, youth across the country are finding their voices and taking action on causes they’re passionate about.

In our classrooms, there have been questions raised about diversity. Are schools and classes doing enough to teach students about different cultures and traditions? Are lesson plans about sensitive subjects such as slavery done tactfully?

In English classrooms nationwide, teachers assign books for students to read in class and on their own. They analyze the content of the book and discuss how the reading ties in to the lesson. But more often than not, the books on assigned reading lists do not have leading characters that reflect the diversity of our classrooms. In fact, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, fewer than 10% of children’s books released had a black person as the main character. Commonly assigned books like Lord of the Flies and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, focus on young male, often white, protagonists.

Marley Dias, an 11 year old elementary school student, noticed the lack of diversity and vowed to make a difference. She made a goal to collect 1000 books featuring black girls as the main characters by February of 2016. Through the creation of the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks, her campaign has soared on social media and as of March, she has managed to collect over 4,000 books.

Since reaching her goal, Marley continues to fight for more diversity in books. In conjunction with the social action organization, GrassRoots Community Foundation, she has worked to create a detailed resource guide and book catalog for the public.   

What Marley has done is remarkable and goes to show that you’re never too young to make an impact. As changemakers of the world, Marley’s efforts should be an example to how we make our own powerful statements. By identifying the issue, brainstorming working ideas, and setting up clear goals, she was able to make her campaign successful.  

About Nicki Pungprasert

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