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

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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 last 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 what books are assigned to students. Morning Edition's David Greene spoke with Marley about her campaign and how she's 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.

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