In high school, Kaya Thomas was a self-proclaimed “nerdy black girl.” She loved books, but she often felt like the literary world didn’t love her back.
“As a teen, I was feeling erased by the books I was reading at my libraries and at school,” Thomas says. “The characters were never anything like myself.”
Libraries were filled with pages upon pages of white characters going on adventures dreamed up by white authors. Thomas, however, was looking for books that made her feel seen — and she knew others were, too.
So when she grew from a nerdy black girl into a black woman studying computer science at Dartmouth, she knew she could help close this literary gap. Now, she’s the creator of a free app called We Read Too, which allows young readers to browse more than 600 books featuring black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and other non-white characters. All of the featured books are written by people of color, with readers of color in mind.
The simple app specifically targets children and young adults of color, cataloging books in a searchable database by author and title. Each book’s profile features a plot description, a photo of the cover, and links to share the book on social media or buy it online. There’s also a “discover” feature, which randomly matches users to a book by genre.
Thomas is currently fundraising on Indiegogo to expand the app, hoping to feature more than 1,000 books. The campaign has already raised more than $12,000, surpassing its original goal of $10,000.
With the money, Thomas plans to launch an Android version of the app this year, and redesign the iOS version with new features.