MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Literacy rates in Memphis children continue to be a concern, and one author in Frayser says many kids never read a book with a character who looks like them.

She’s working to change the narrative around reading.

T’arrah Marje grew up in Frayser, which some locals call the “Bay Area,” and truly blossomed inside the library. That’s why she dedicated one of her books to “all the budding roses in the Frayser community of Memphis, Tennessee.”

“When people meet me, the last thing they expect is where I grew up,” she said. “I was always a very active creative child, so it all translated in different ways. Like, I always wrote poetry and wrote stories.”

That gift of writing bloomed into two published children’s books during the pandemic, and a publishing company, Bay Rose’s Publishing.

“Frayser gets a bad rap in the city,” she said, but “we have amazing people in the community. We just need the backing, support and more opportunities, more representation.”

She hopes to provide that representation with her books about Black kids in inner cities — “Still A Rose,” an affirmation poem encouraging confidence, and “Big Mad,” a story teaching children how to manage their attitudes.

“It’s something like only 5 percent representation worldwide, of children of color,” she said. “Now I have a purpose with my passion.”

Another passion is bringing parents and kids together.

“If you spend 15 mins a day reading to your child, they have a much bigger chance at life and it diminishes their chance of going to prison,” she said.

Marje hopes her books can plant the seed for the next generation.

“That’s why I named my company after my community — always as a reminder that you can go anywhere and do anything, so don’t let any type of limitations be placed on you because of where you come from or what others think of you,” she said.

Her next mission is getting her books into Frayser Elementary.

That’s where she went to school growing up. She wants every third and fourth grader to have a copy.

Marjé’s books can be purchased on Amazon or tmstories.com.