Hamilton middle school student highlights diversity in youth literature with new TV series

A Hamilton, Ont., middle school student is making her television debut with a series that aims to highlight diversity in literature and get kids excited about reading.

Ainara Alleyne is the creator and host of Ainara’s Bookshelf, which began as an Instagram account that has since amassed more than 8,000 followers and is now a series that is airing on YouTube and on TVOKids.

Alleyne, who is now 13, said she started the Instagram account in 2020 when schools shut down during the pandemic and has spent the past three years reading and reviewing books from a variety of diverse perspectives.

She said she felt that kids from diverse or marginalized backgrounds weren’t represented enough in the books available at school and the library.

“I think that it’s important for kids to see characters in books that look like themselves,” said Alleyne. “For them to read books that are written by people that look like them and that have the same culture about characters that look like them.”

“I think it’s also important for kids of other cultures to be able to step into another person’s shoes, another person’s story, so that we can all better understand each other.”

Alleyne was one of the guest speakers during the launch of Hamilton’s Black History Month celebration earlier this week, where she spoke about being a young person who is helping to shape the future of Black history.

She said she hopes that she’s been able to empower other young people like her to speak up and call for change when they feel it needs to happen.

“Even if you’re 13 years old, even if you’re nine years old, you can speak up, you can share a message. You can try to solve a problem in the world that you’ve seen that’s affected you, that is probably affecting other kids like you. I think it’s important for kids to know that their voice can make a difference and I hope that by hearing mine that they’ll better understand that.”

This season of Ainara’s Bookshelf is 10 episodes and many of those feature interviews with the authors of different books — all chosen by Alleyne herself.

The first episode aired on Thursday, Feb. 2 on TVOKids and is also available on the marbleKids YouTube channel, along with the other nine episodes of the season.

Alleyne said she’d love to do more episodes of the series if given the opportunity.

“I’m starting high school next year, so it might take me a bit to get used to continuing to do Ainara’s Bookshelf and going through school at the same time, but I do want to continue,” she said.

“I don’t know what’s next, but I’m excited to find out.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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