The publishing industry is slowly getting better about publishing diverse books, but fortunately in the meantime, there are many books with diverse protagonists — if you know where to look, at least, and therein lies the problem. To help people find books that aren't just about white people, the creator of #1000BlackGirlBooks has created an online resource guide with all the titles she's collected so far. So if you're looking to diversify your reading material, this isn't a bad place to start.
11-year-old Marley Dias first started #1000BlackGirlBooks because she was tired of reading about nothing but "white boys and dogs," and her book drive to specifically find books that featured characters more like her quickly gained national attention. Since launching the book drive, she's received over 4,000 books, and plans to donate them to the Retreat Primary and Junior School and Library in St. Mary, Jamaica, which is where her mother grew up. She's also encouraged people to share recommendations using the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks. And to make it even easier to find titles featuring black girls and women, #1000BlackGirlBooks now has an online database that you can browse.
Hosted through the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, the database already includes 700 titles, with more to come, and lists books for every age and reading level, from picture books to adult titles.
"As caregivers of children we must nurture our children’s imaginations and equip them with the resources so they can be emboldened to act," writes Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, the president of GrassROOTS and Marley's mom.
Marley herself writes,
I believe black girl books are really important because when you are young you want to read lots of books, but you especially like to read books with people that look like you. While I have books at home about black girls, the books at school were not diverse. Children do most of their reading in schools or because of schools. Teachers assign books that you must read. If those books are not diverse and do not show different people’s experiences then kids are going to believe that there is only one type of experience that matters.
And she adds that books about black girls are not just for black girls, either. They are for everyone.
"I think it is important that if we want the world to be a better place where everyone feels welcomed and understood," she writes, "then we must sure that children have books about black girls, and all kinds of people, not just white boys and dogs."
We could always use more diverse books in our lives, and while it's great that publishers are trying to make it easier to find them, there's no reason to wait before seeking out the works that are already there. So having an online database for books featuring black girls and women as the protagonist is awesome.