A lack of diversity in children’s books sparked a journey for one 11-year-old African-American reader in the United States. She set out to find 1,000 ‘black girl books’. After an outpouring of support, she’s exceeded that goal.
CCTV’s Lorna Shaddick reports.
Marley Dias may be only 11, but she’s already started a movement.
With the help of Instagram and the Twitter hashtag #1000blackgirlbooks she collected a thousand books with main characters she could relate to, and raised awareness of the need for more diversity in children’s literature.
“I think that African American kids should be in books,” 7-year-old Ameerah Anderson said. “I would like to see a girl like me.”
“Some children, they feel like they’re less of a person because of their skin color when that’s really not the case,” student volunteer Cyndia Dundee said. “If they saw more different kinds of diverse books with different girls and boys, maybe they wouldn’t feel that way.”
Sheila Moses on the need for diversity in books
For more we were joined by Sheila Moses, a National Book Award finalist who started writing at the age of six. She has penned 14 books, including “The Legend of Buddy Bush” and “Fire: The Dick Gregory Story.”
It appears campaigns like Marley’s are making an impact on the kinds of books kids can expect to find in libraries. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center released statistics in April on the representation of people of color in kids’ literature – showing the number of children’s books by and about African Americans jumped by 42 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Marley was especially concerned about the representation of young black girls in literature, but experts said boys face similar problems.
“One project I’m currently working on is tracing all of the books published from 2000 until 2015 that have African American males as protagonists, just to see how African American males are depicted in the literary imagination,” Dr. Detra Price-Dennis, assistant professor at the Teachers’ College at Columbia University, said. “All of the books had black males that were struggling or their parents were in jail – there was always some kind of problem. And my son’s life didn’t look like that.”
So although girls like Ameerah are finally starting to see characters they can relate to, it may take a campaign from a male version of Marley to change the perception of black boys too.