11-year-old's Instagram account celebrates books with Black characters

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Ainara Alleyne loves digging into a good book with strong, relatable characters. But whenever the 11-year-old from Stoney Creek visited her school library, she'd never see anyone in a book who looked like her.

That's why she started Ainara's Bookshelf — an Instagram account that highlights books whose main characters are Black and people of colour. 

"I would never be able to see a Black girl doing something really cool, being an astronaut or something like that. And the only time I would ever see Black people in books in the library would be Black History Month, and it would all be about slavery … or hurtful stereotypes," she said. 

"I wanted kids to actually be able to see themselves in books and believe that they can do amazing things too." 

On her Instagram account, Ainara posts reviews, recommendations, and interviews with authors in the effort to share diverse stories with people.

She was presented a "Women Who Rock Award" in October that recognizes Black women and girls for their leadership. 

"This young woman is already on her way to changing the world one book review at a time," says a media release. 

Anne Miller, who has known Ainara since she was a toddler and nominated her for the award, is proud of her.

"She just has an exuberance about her," Miller said, noting Ainara's bright personality, contagious smile and curious soul.  

"I thought that she could be a beacon for young, Black kids in Hamilton," she said. "I thought what she was doing could highlight what the possibilities are out there just by trying to do the best you can in life." 

The Grade 6 student says it makes her happy to receive messages saying someone bought a book on her good word alone, or from teachers who have added the stories to their classrooms.