Finding children’s books featuring characters of color can be tough, especially when they’re only included in about 11 percent of the books published each year. But one New Jersey tween has taken matters into her own hands.

After reading Where the Red Fern Grows and the Shiloh series in school, Marley Dias said she was fed up with the books her teachers were assigning her to read.

“I told [my mom] I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” the 11-year-old said. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.”

Dias kept her word and launched #1000BlackGirlBooks, a campaign to collect 1000 books about young Black female characters by February 1. The project is being supported by Philly’s GrassROOTS Community Foundation, an organization Dias’ mother, Janice, founded with Tariq Trotter (Black Thought), of The Roots.

So far, Dias is halfway to her goal. Once she hits it, she plans to donate the books to a low-resources library in St. Mary, Jamaica where her mother grew up.

This isn’t the first time Dias has given back to her community. At just 11 she’s already written a winning proposal for a Disney Friends for Change grant and served orphaned children in Ghana. Now, the tween wants to inspire her peers do the same.

“I’m hoping to show that other girls can do this as well,” he told PhillyVoice. “I used the resources I was given, and I want people to pass that down and use the things they’re given to create more social action projects — and do it just for fun, and not make it feel like a chore.”

So what does this inspiring young lady want to do when she grows up? Run a magazine, of course!

“I want to be a magazine editor for my own magazine,” she said. “And I’d also like to continue social action. For the rest of my life.”

Want to help Marley reach her goal? You can send books to: 

59 Main St.,

West Orange, N.J., 07052, Office 322

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