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Where's The Color In Kids' Lit? Ask The Girl With 1,000 Books (And Counting)

Marley Dias
Andrea Cipriani Mecchi
Marley Dias

Marley Dias is like a lot of 11-year-olds: She loves getting lost in a book.

But the books she was reading at school were starting to get on her nerves. She enjoyed Where The Red Fern Grows and the Shiloh series, but those classics, found in so many elementary school classrooms, were all about white boys or dogs ... or white boys and their dogs, Marley says.

Black girls, like Marley, were almost never the main character.

What she was noticing is actually a much bigger issue: Fewer than 10 percent of children's books released in 2015 had a black person as the main character, according to a yearly analysis by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. And while the number of children's books about minorities has increased in the past 20 years, many classroom libraries have older books.

Last fall, Marley decided to do something about it. She set a goal of collecting 1,000 books about black girls by the beginning of February, and #1000blackgirlbooks was born.

She has far exceeded her goal, with almost 4,000 books and counting. Now, she wants to set up a black girl book club and pressure school districts to change which books are assigned to students. Morning Edition's David Greene spoke with Marley about her campaign and how she has handled her success.

The thing NPR Ed wanted to know? Her take on a subject she now knows well: books about black girls. Here are her top five picks.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Meg Anderson is an editor on NPR's Investigations team, where she shapes the team's groundbreaking work for radio, digital and social platforms. She served as a producer on the Peabody Award-winning series Lost Mothers, which investigated the high rate of maternal mortality in the United States. She also does her own original reporting for the team, including the series Heat and Health in American Cities, which won multiple awards, and the story of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Black community and the systemic factors at play. She also completed a fellowship as a local reporter for WAMU, the public radio station for Washington, D.C. Before joining the Investigations team, she worked on NPR's politics desk, education desk and on Morning Edition. Her roots are in the Midwest, where she graduated with a Master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.