Kaya Thomas grew up loving books, but often could not relate to the white characters, created by white authors.
"As a teen, I was feeling erased by the books I was reading at my libraries and at school," Kaya said in an interview. "The characters were never anything like myself."
So, to fill that gap, Kaya decided to create something that would help other readers of color to find books with characters that they could relate to. Studying computer science at Dartmouth, she developed her own app, We Read Too, which opens the door to a wonderful world of books featuring black, Latin, Asian, Native American, and other non-white characters.
"It's the message I am trying to display to the world," Kaya said of the app. "We love to read, too, and want to see ourselves in the stories we read just like anyone else would."
The app allows users to browse a database over 600 books, all which were written by people of color for readers of color. Each book has a profile that gives its plot description, a cover photo, and links to share the book on social media or buy it online. There’s also an option to “discover” books, which matches users up to a book based on genre!
Kaya launched her incredible idea back in August 2014, right before her sophomore year of college, on iOS. She’s currently raising money on Indiegogo to expand We Read Too, hoping to feature more than 1,000 books and launch an Android version of the app. The campaign has already raised over $12,000, passing Kaya’s original goal of $10,000.
This app is awesome for young readers to be able to find books that they can ultimately relate to. However, it also pushes publishers, libraries, and schools to offer more diverse literary choices. Readers of color want to be able to see themselves more in the stories they read, and it’s great that Kaya is taking steps to do that!