Once upon a time there was a poet and author named Pat Mora. She believed in fostering the love of books in children. She called it ‘book joy.’ One day, someone asked her about Children’s Day. Even though it had been an international holiday since 1925 and a celebrated event in Mexico, Mora had never heard of it which surprised her because she lived in El Paso, Texas, right next to Mexico. So she started thinking about combining the recognition and celebration of children with a celebration of reading, especially bilingual literacy. That became El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Day/Book Day. The first celebration was held on April 30, 1997. This year El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Day/Book Day turns 16.
If you want to read more about El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Day/Book Day, I highly recommend Samantha Clark’s interview with Jeanette Larson. Larson is a long time friend of Mora’s and helped develop the first Día “toolkit” for librarians. Says Larson, “The goals of Día include a daily commitment to honor children and childhood, promote literacy, honor home languages and cultures, promote global understanding through reading, involve parents as members of the literacy team and promote the development of library collections that reflect the plurality of this country.”
What began as a one day celebration, says Larson, “has grown to become a culmination of a year’s worth of efforts for bilingual literacy. What takes place varies from very simple celebrations like a bilingual or multicultural storytime to full blown fiestas. In some communities, many agencies partner to put on a full day of events with storytellers, dancers, food, games, authors, singers, and other events that tie in to literacy and books. These partners can include the local consulates, public television stations, churches and synagogues, child welfare agencies, local businesses … anyone with a stake in our children! Often children receive a bilingual or multicultural book as part of the events.”
All this week the Austin Public Library has been hosting Dia de Los Libros events that will culminate tomorrow at the Nuckols Crossing Branch with a performance by Ballet Folklorico Mexikayotl at 10 am followed by special appearances of several PBS characters. According the Austin American Statesman, free books in English and Spanish will be given out to children.