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The Spirit of Día: Celebrating Cuentos Every Day

By: Irania Patterson and Jamie Campbell Naidoo (2011)
Día de los niños/Día de de los Libros

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day), known as "Día," is a daily celebration of children, families, and reading that culminates each year on April 30th. The celebration emphasizes the importance of advocating literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and connecting all children to books, languages, and cultures.

Founded in 1996 by Latino children's book author Pat Mora, Día is housed at the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. In February 1997, REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Service to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking) voted to endorse the family literacy initiative and celebrate Día throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The first annual Día celebration was held on April 30, 1997.

Mora's idea for Día came from the concept of expanding the holiday Children's Day (recognized on April 30 in Mexico) to include a celebration of literacy and culture. Since the celebration's inception, many organizations, especially library systems, have joined and supported Día initiatives throughout the United States. All of these initiatives include a commitment to:

  • honoring children and childhood
  • promoting literacy and linking children from all cultures and language to books
  • celebrating bilingual and multilingual literacy
  • fostering global understanding through reading
  • involving parents as partners in literacy education
  • emphasizing library collections that reflect a culturally pluralistic society (Mora 2009).

In 2009 more than 400 libraries and schools in almost every state were participating in Día activities and sharing the details on the official Día website. Thousands of Latino and non-Latino children and their families attending these programs enjoyed annual festivities and small celebrations honoring children, books, cultures, and languages.

Planning Día Programs

Planning a Día program or celebration might seem like a daunting task for children's and school librarians, particularly those who do not speak Spanish or know much about Latino cultures. Fortunately, many free resources exist online to help with the planning, development, promotion, execution, and evaluation of Día programs. These resources include lists of recommended books celebrating Latino cultures, finger rhymes and songs from Latin American countries, craft activities, thematic storytime suggestions, interviews with Latino/Latina authors and illustrators of children's books, and much more. See below for Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo's list of recommended resources for planning Día programs.

Source: Recommended resources for school and public children's librarians planning Día programs. Compiled by Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo for the Día educational program "Cuentos de las Americas: Celebrating Latino Cultures and Día with Recent Outstanding Latino Children's Books" for the American Library Association 2009 Annual Conference.

Funding Día Programs

Libraries interested in finding funds to support a Día celebration should consider contacting their local REFORMA chapter, which may provide small funds for Día programs. Another option would be for libraries to "toot their own horn" and apply for the Mora Award.

In 2000, Pat Mora and her siblings established the Estela and Raúl Mora Award in honor of their parents. This annual award, designed to promote Día and encourage organizations to plan Día celebrations, is presented to the library system, community organization, or school who held the most exemplary Día program during the calendar year. Members of REFORMA serve as judges for the Mora Award which consists of a disbursement of $1,000 and a plaque donated by the Mora grandchildren. Past winners of the Mora Award have included:

  • El Paso Public Library (TX)
  • Multnomah County Library (OR)
  • Corvallis-Benton Public Library (OR)
  • Providence Public Library (RI)
  • REFORMA de Utah
  • Kenton County Public Library (KY)
  • Broward County Library (FL)
  • Riverside County Library System (CA)
  • the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County (NC)
  • San Francisco Public Library (CA)
  • Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (KS)

Embracing the Spirit of Día

To succeed in their Día programming, librarians should embrace the spirit of the celebration. Día SPIRIT includes the following:

  • Spread the Día seed: Make literacy across languages and cultures an everyday intention.
  • Personal commitment: Make your organization believe, as you do, that this is an incredible way to serve the community at large.
  • Involvement: Spread the love for reading in many languages to many children in and outside your system by using volunteers, community resources, and political power.
  • Renaissance of the arts: Fight with the power of writers, storytellers, musicians, poets, actors, dancers and illustrators, against stereotypes, apathy, and lack of vision.
  • Innovation: Study the success of other Día initiatives, adapt them and create your own new flavor.
  • Transcend: Overcome any barriers to the love of reading beyond languages, colors, and cultures.

The Spirit of Día at PLCMC

Regardless of whether Día is a new term for you or you have celebrated it for more than 10 years, the next step is to ask yourself: Is my organization really engaged in the Día Spirit? And what does that spirit mean?

For the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (PLCMC), the Día Spirit means "Diversity In Action." In the 2008 PLCMC was the recipient of the Mora Award, which recognized the library's proven track record for producing outstanding Día celebrations in the community and making a commitment to celebrate literacy and culture. From the first celebration in 1998 to the present, PLCMC has sought to promote literacy in the Charlotte community by advocating for Día. The celebrations began as small storytelling session in local branches and have evolved into month-long programs and a statewide initiative with a grand finale featuring Latino authors as well as local artists. Día has been a tool to reach the Spanish and international community and to promote literacy and multicultural authors.

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Meryle Leonard, outreach manager at PLCMC, Día is now a statewide initiative in North Carolina. In the following interview excerpt, Leonard shares with Irania Patterson her insights on successful Día programming.

What are the most successful approaches in celebrating Día?

The most successful approach to celebrating Día is one that works within the capacity of the organization. Create a celebration that is comfortable to your organization and budget. Anyone can celebrate and honor the spirit of Día. If you have a small library or organization, create a small celebration that concentrates on literacy and culture. Storytelling can be a small event that tells a powerful story. Storytelling can take a group of children to several different countries and allow them to experience various cultures in less than 60 minutes! Collaborating with community organizations and enlisting volunteers can make a small celebration go very far.

Another successful approach is engaging the community. Your planning process should include your target audience. Not only will you offer a celebration that is relevant and accurate, but you will also have a team that can help market your celebration to the target audience.

Plan your event. Give yourself enough time to plan an event that allows you to create a planning team, involve the target audience, secure space and funding and develop an evaluation plan.

How can librarians and educators extend Día to more than one day?

I love to quote Pat Mora when she says, "Plant a Día seed." Your April Día celebration should be a catalyst to year-long literacy experiences that honor all children and cultures. May to March can be used as a build up to the next April celebration. Libraries and families can regularly include books and activities that introduce children to different cultures. They can also share books that honor different languages. When children participate in the April celebration, they will be excited to share their knowledge and have fun and relevant experiences related to literacy, language and culture. Planting a Día seed also gives you the opportunity to offer long-term projects. Children can engage in projects that include picture book clubs, writing books, craft projects and communications with an author that all lead to the April celebration.

Día as Diversity In Action

From its inception, Día was designed to honor home languages and cultures and not just the Latino culture. Any Día celebration can include books, art, music, and literature that celebrate a variety of cultures. Storytelling, puppetry, and arts and crafts can be a fun, and educational way to reach a variety of audiences. These activities should be geared to children of all ages, languages and cultures.

How Día Evolved at PLCMC

Winning the Mora Award in 2008 was the icing on the Día cupcake for PLCMC. As mentioned above, the library has promoted the celebration for more than ten years, during which it has evolved into a program that truly connects communities, cultures, families, and literacy. Following is a timeline of Día celebrations at PLCMC.

  • 1998 (Celebrate Children Celebrate Books!): The library celebrated Día for the first time. The small celebration was hosted at the main library and community volunteers read to children representing 50 families. Other activities included Tía Panchita's Storytime and a mini piñata made from children's books.
  • 1999 (Bingo Libro): Día was again celebrated at the main library location. More than 100 families participated in Bingo Libro, a library game that introduced patrons young and old to library resources. The celebration also included fiestas and puppet shows.
  • 2000: The library celebrated Día at Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation's Grady Cole Center. Mayor Pat McCory proclaimed the last Saturday in April as "Día de los niños / Día de los libros Day" in Charlotte, North Carolina. The celebration was supported by several local agencies including Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department, the Chemical Dependency Center, Programa Esperanza, Catholic Social Services, the National Conference for Community and Justice, Bilingual Preschool, Mi Casa Su Casa, the Mint Museum, Burger King, and Discovery Place. The activities honored several cultures through plays, puppet shows, music and games from around the world. More than 300 families participated in this literacy activity.
  • 2001: PLCMC celebrated Día at the main library location and expanded to 22 additional library branches. Each branch developed a unique Día de los niños bookmark and hosted a bilingual book display. The main library's celebration was a children's festival with a farm animal theme. More than 100 families enjoyed plays featuring animals and made animal books to take home. Ki Kirikis, a group composed of library staff members, performed Latino-themed plays at both the main library and several library branches.
  • 2002: Día was again celebrated at the main library and twenty-two branches. During this year's celebration, the library sponsored a five-month project, "La Fiesta de Enriqueta," with the Bilingual Preschool. The result was a published book created by the parents and children from the preschool. One hundred copies of the book were printed and distributed. In addition, the library's performing group Ki Kirikis presented two bilingual plays, The Lizard and the Sun by Alma Flor Ada and Borreguita and Coyote by Verna Aaderma. More than150 families enjoyed the performances. The library also began its commitment to promoting Día statewide by presenting a Día at the North Carolina Library Association regional conference.
  • 2003: Twenty three branches joined to the Día celebration, which took the form of a traditional festival, including book displays, bilingual storytelling, piñatas, and arts and crafts. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department and a local radio station, Radio Lider were our community partners. Through their generous donations, all participants received an age-appropriate book along with other prizes, and two lucky winners won a new bicycle. Five-hundred people attended the event.
  • 2004: Again, PLCMC celebrated Día at the main library and 22 branches. The library received a $500 grant from El Pueblo Foundation, and funds were used to buy books for all program participants. Educational workshops were added to the festival, and community agencies such as Child Care Resources, Inc., Discovery Place and the Nature Museum supported the celebration with a variety of children's craft activities. Five hundred families participated.
  • 2005: The library celebrated Día at its new ImaginOn facility, a special location just for kids and teens. With a strong effort to embrace all nationalities, the celebration reflected the diversity in the Charlotte community. Puppet shows, crafts, storytelling and music had an international theme, and all participants received a free age-appropriate book. More than 1,000 people enjoyed the celebration.
  • 2006: The library again celebrated Día at ImaginOn and continued the incorporating themes of community diversity with internationally-themed puppet shows, crafts, storytelling and music. The celebration featured two local literary artists: author Irania Patterson and illustrator Catherine Courtlandt-McElvane. Through a generous grant from Target, all participants received a free age- appropriate book. More than 1,000 people attended.
  • 2007: The library celebrated Día at ImaginOn on April 28. Thanks to funding form Target, this year's celebration featured author Lulu Delacre, who conducted several teacher workshops and was the guest speaker at the main celebration. The day-long celebration included drama workshops, dancing, crafts and storytelling from around the world, plus a presentation from the Gray Seal Puppets. More then 1000 families participated.
  • 2008: The library celebrated Día at ImaginOn on Sunday, April 27. The celebration featured author Yuyi Morales. Born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico, Morales is an artist, author, and puppet maker. The celebration included a city-wide illustration contest that honored family traditions. It also featured several multicultural activities including dancers from India, China, Japan and Latin America; Arabic writing and crafts; and a karate and mime performance. Public television characters Maya and Miguel made a special guest appearance. More than 1,000 families took part.
  • 2009: The Library celebrated Día at ImaginOn on April 25 and featured author Arthur Dorres, author of 24 books including Abuela, winner of the Parent's Choice Award. The entire library system joined Día's mission and conducted creative activities in each location. Five storytellers — from France, Japan, Perú, Guatemala and South Africa — performed on April 25. Chinese and Indian dancers made folkloric performances, and karate and Zumba classes, promoting health and fitness, were offered. Children's Theater of Charlotte offered a drama class to children and families. In 2009 PLCMC demonstrated the commitment to make Día a statewide initiative, by delivering multiple conferences, webinars and workshops across the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. Community organizations such as the Census, institutions in the fields of education and special needs, and other media organizations were involved in Día 2009. More than 1,000 families were involved.

Concluding Remarks

Becoming a multicultural institution requires fostering opportunities to promote multicultural readers, and Día is a great way to do it. Día has been successfully celebrated in small institutions with very limited resources, as well as in big systems that partner with for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Día could be seen as an outreach opportunity, a cultural and literary event, a kickoff for summer reading, a multi-linguistic festival, a way to promote bilingual authors and books, and a way to tell the world that books are essential in the lives of all children, regardless of their language and background.

Libraries hosting Día celebrations embark on a journey to reach all children, not only the Spanish-speaking children. For some library systems, finding support to promote services to the international community is a challenge, whether the challenge comes from funding problems, lack of support by managers or supervisors, lack of bilingual staff, or simply the excuse: "We can only do so much." Día is a solution for those challenges and it is definitely one of the best and practical ways to bring all languages, cultures, and ethnic groups together for the love of reading or what Pat Mora calls" bookjoy". In my experience there is little excuse not to engage in El día de los niños/El día de los libros.

References

Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Mora, Pat, "Pat's History of El Día de los niños/El Día de los libros, Children's Day/Book Day," [cited November 25, 2009]. Available from http://www.patmora.com/dia/dia_history.htm.

Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. "The history of Día de los Niños / Día de los Libros: Children's Day / Book Day," [cited November 25, 2009]. Available from http://www.plcmc.org/programs/diaarchive.asp

Reprinted with permission. Campbell Naidoo, J., and Patterson, I. "The Spirit of Día." Celebrating Cuentos: Promoting Latino Children's Literature and Literacy in Classrooms and Libraries. Ed. Jamie Campbell Naidoo. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2011. 201, 205-212.

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