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13-year-old author speaks about book, social media campaign

Marley+Dias%2C+a+13-year-old+author%2C+speaks+at+Evanston+Township+High+School+with+Evanston+eighth-grader+Taryn+Robinson+on+Thursday.+Dias+spoke+about+her+recently+published+book+and+her+social+media+campaign.+
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13-year-old author speaks about book, social media campaign

Marley Dias, a 13-year-old author, speaks at Evanston Township High School with Evanston eighth-grader Taryn Robinson on Thursday. Dias spoke about her recently published book and her social media campaign.

Marley Dias, a 13-year-old author, speaks at Evanston Township High School with Evanston eighth-grader Taryn Robinson on Thursday. Dias spoke about her recently published book and her social media campaign.

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

Marley Dias, a 13-year-old author, speaks at Evanston Township High School with Evanston eighth-grader Taryn Robinson on Thursday. Dias spoke about her recently published book and her social media campaign.

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

Marley Dias, a 13-year-old author, speaks at Evanston Township High School with Evanston eighth-grader Taryn Robinson on Thursday. Dias spoke about her recently published book and her social media campaign.

Samantha Handler, Assistant City Editor

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When Marley Dias sat in her fifth grade class, she was interested in reading but found one problem: All the books her class was reading had “white boys and their dogs” as the main characters.

She said she knew books about black girls like her existed because she had the opportunity to read them outside of class, but she wanted to make sure others had the chance as well. So, when she was in sixth grade, she launched her #1000blackgirlbooks social media campaign, landing her on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list and The Ellen Show.

“I know a lot of black kids who rely on their librarians and their teachers to give them information about what’s important to be reading about, learning about, educating themselves about, but it seems as though they only want them to learn about one experience,” Dias said at Evanston Township High School on Thursday. “So I thought of the idea to collect 1,000 books that have black girls as the main characters and get them into schools.”

Dias — a 13-year-old from Philadelphia who recently published her book “Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!” — spoke at an event sponsored by Family Action Network. She discussed her campaign, new book and how she has dealt with her newfound fame.

ETHS principal Marcus Campbell told The Daily though the school hosts FAN events often, there has never been a crowd “this young, this engaged.” He said Dias’ campaign is significant for many students because it expands their understanding of what literature and stories can be.

“I think that the type of attention she’s bringing to different types of protagonists is reminiscent of what Toni Morrison has done and Zora Neale Hurston and so many others,” Campbell said. “But it’s at a kid-level, which I think is really very powerful.”

Dias said she began her campaign in November 2015 and mainly used her mother’s Instagram account to collect books and promote the cause. She added that her appearance on The Ellen Show and Philadelphia news and talk shows helped her get her message out.

Since then, Dias said she has exceeded her goal, with 11,000 books collected to date. Including her own book, Dias added, she has acquired 11,001.

Her mother, Janice Johnson Dias, told The Daily she still sees Marley Dias as the same kid she has always been, but still feels the “surrealness” of her daughter’s accomplishments.

Janice Johnson Dias said she taught Marley Dias to respect others and share her voice to amplify messages. She said she sees those ideas come to life when her daughter speaks about her campaign and her book.

“For me, (when Marley was) a kid, all that we knew was that she loved one thing,” Janice Johnson Dias said. “She loved to read above anything else. That was her passion. It’s just delightful to see that passion go into this.”

Email: samanthahandler2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @sn_handler

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