Our Future Is Bright: Tomorrow's Leading Women Changing Stories We Tell

Credit: Huffington Post The sixth grader was frustrated that she wasn't reading books about little black girls in school, so she started #1000BlackGirlBooks.

Credit: Huffington Post The sixth grader was frustrated that she wasn't reading books about little black girls in school, so she started #1000BlackGirlBooks.

Dr. Nancy O'Reilly's Leading Women

Dr. Nancy O'Reilly's Leading Women

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light – Vera NazarianThere’s nothing like a good book to educate, entertain or inspire you. Studies are proving time and time again that reading is beneficial for everything from improvement of memory to stress reduction. And for children, stories have the power to bring emotions to life, and help children understand their own feelings and those of others.For 11-year-old Marley Dias, a good book that spoke directly to her wasn’t easy to come by. The books she was assigned in school were all about white boys or dogs and as a young black girl, she wasn’t finding the books inspiring or relatable. As reported by “CBS This Morning,” she took the problem to her mom, who said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” With that question, an idea was born.Marley started a book drive. The idea was simple – to collect 1,000 books about black girls. She created the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks, and her ambitious idea quickly became viral. First, local media got wind of her drive, which led to appearances with Larry Wilmore on “The Nightly Show” and with Ellen DeGeneres. The books also began arriving and stacking up. By the time CBS visited, Marley had collected close to 1,300 books, which she has now donated to a primary school in rural St. Mary, Jamaica, the birthplace of her mother.Marley’s actions are by definition those of a Leading Woman, and we can all learn from her. She responded to her mother’s challenge by changing her story from that of an underserved black girl with no role models in books to the curator (and then donor) of 1,300 books about black girls. Not to mention the fact that she has become a national TV and internet personality. Marley has in effect done what my Leading Women co-author M. Bridget Cook-Burch writes about, and has transformed her story and changed the narrative to one of authenticity, empowerment, and transformation.Marley has also followed my co-author Gloria Feldt’s lead and defined herself, set her intentions, and used her power to achieve her goals. By choosing power over fear, or in this instance, disillusionment, Marley shifted from a culture of oppression to a culture of positive intention, a solution that makes life better for everyone.Marley also followed the course set by my co-author Janet Rose Wojtalik, EdD, and branded herself as strong, independent, thoughtful, eager to learn, healthy in mind and body, aware of obstacles and myths, and skillful in overcoming stereotypes. Janet’s goal to help parents learn how to raise strong, resilient, hardy daughters who search for knowledge could not be more perfectly displayed in the exchange between Marley and her mother. By challenging Marley to do something about it, she not only passed the solution back to her daughter, she exhibited faith that her daughter possessed the ability to solve the problem.  Marley definitely showed that she is capable of whatever she puts her mind to. At just 11 years old, this girl is now seriously branded as a can-do kind of gal.Marley’s story proves that one person really can make a difference. By connecting with others, she has changed the status quo, and shown us once again, that when women connect, our power is amplified, and we are truly able to shape the world in a way that works for all of us. Marley truly is what the women-helping-women movement is all about, and I hope that her example will inspire many other women and girls around the world.Get more tips from M. Bridget Cook-Burch, Gloria Feldt, Dr. Janet Rose Wojtalik and 16 other amazing women, including Linda Rendleman who writes, “To be authentic you need to understand your values and live by them.”Order your copy of Leading Women here.