Marley Dias, Allister Chang Among ILA’s “30 Under 30” Literacy Champions

The creator of a mobile library serving children in Afghanistan, a middle school teacher-designer of a social justice course in West Philadelphia, and #1000BlackGirlBooks founder Marley Dias were named to the International Literacy Association’s “30 Under 30” list.

The creator of a mobile library serving children in Afghanistan via a converted bus and a middle school teacher-designer of a social justice course being piloted in West Philadelphia are among the global literacy leaders named to the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “30 Under 30” list.

Announced today, the 2019 list features rising notables in the literacy field from 13 countries and includes educators, nonprofit leaders, researchers, and social entrepreneurs. The youngest on the list? By far, Marley Dias.

At 14, Dias (pictured) is a familiar face in library and publishing circles as the founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks. As an 11-year-old, the New Jersey native sought to collect 1,000 titles with black female protagonists. The successful campaign—boosted by Dias’s appearance on multiple talk shows—brought greater public attention to the need for books reflecting a fuller diversity of human experience. Last year, Scholastic published her book of activism for young people, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You

Allister Chang, 28, is another “30 Under 30” honoree. Executive director of Libraries Without Borders, Chang has driven some of the nonprofit’s most creative initiatives, including the Ideas Box, a portable multimedia center for refugee camps and other areas in crisis.     

“Library tools and services transform people’s lives, particularly in communities that have recently suffered from political turmoil or natural disaster,” Chang told Literacy Today, ILA's magazine.

With “Wash & Learn,” a project that brings literacy activities and books to laundromats on a pop-up basis, Chang intends to expand the program to all 30,000 coin-operated laundries in the U.S.

Other 2019 “30 Under 30” notables are:

  • Gerald Dessus, 29, a middle school teacher at Mastery Charter Schools, Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia, who designed and piloted a social justice curriculum that has since been adopted by six other Mastery campuses.
  • Mahbuba Hammad, 29, literacy research director, Center for Languages, Arts, and Societies of the Silk Road, who is developing Arabic literacy standards for dual immersion programs in North America.
  • Freshta Karim, 26, founder of Charmaghz, a mobile library that brings books and learning opportunities to more than 200 children a day in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • Francis Jim Tuscano, 29, head edtech coach, Xavier School, founded Kids Can! Innovation Camp, which focuses on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Manila school-based Camp has been expanded. An online version involves 90 participating schools from 20 countries.

To learn more about all of the young leaders, visit

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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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