Marley Dias, the New Jersey sixth-grader who started the drive #1000BlackGirlBooks to gather books featuring girls of color, visited The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore Wednesday night and talked about reaching her goal.
The 11-year-old started the drive in November hoping to find books with characters that looked more like her. She told her mom she was sick of reading books that she couldn’t relate to at her school, St. Cloud Elementary in West Orange. So, she decided to do something about it. With the help of her mother, Dias set out to collect 1,000 books with Black girls as the protagonists and a plan to donate them to her school and a school in St. Mary, Jamaica, her mother’s native country.
“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.
Dias said that when she read books with Black girls as the main characters she was able to get a variety of experiences.
“I noticed when I went home and read the books that I wanted about Black girls, they were different,” the 11-year-old told Wilmore. “Sometimes I was reading about student counsel, sometimes I was reading about a girl who went to Africa.”
And, Dias has reached her goal. The hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks took off on social media and Dias received donations from businesses like Barnes & Noble and Stacked Books. She also appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she received a laptop and $10,000 check from Shutterfly.
She told Wilmore that it's important to be able to relate to the books you read, using him as an example. “When you read a story about a person you connect with—like, well, you host a TV show, so if you were to read a book about a black man who hosts a TV show, you would remember whatever he learned and use it on the show.”
Dias, who named one of her favorite books as Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, told Wilmore that she plans to keep on gathering books and donating them to schools around New Jersey.