Growing up, I definitely remember celebrating El Día del Niño. I don’t particularly remember the date of this celebration, but that’s probably because it takes place on a different date in each of the Latin American countries I lived in as a child – Perú, México and Argentina. I do remember, however; that it was “our” day and everything revolved around us, just like when everything revolves around mami on Mother’s or papi on Father’s Day.
I hadn’t really paid too much attention to celebrating this day here in the States, but thanks to all the research associated with putting together this blog and the fact that Vanessa is now old enough to enjoy this type of celebration, I was thrilled when I found out about El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros – which turns 13 years old today and is the brainchild of award-winning bilingual children’s author, Pat Mora – not only because it celebrates a los niños, but also one of my favorite things in the whole world: LIBROS!
In Mora’s words, she created Día (as this celebration is known) in an effort to “link all children to books, languages and cultures.” This is how Mora, a native from El Paso, Texas, describes how the idea was born: “As a mom, I knew that children often ask, ‘Why do we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and not Children’s Day?’ As a reader, I wanted (and want) to foster ‘bookjoy.’ Ah-ha, I thought. What if we link a celebration of children with literacy, an issue central to the well-being of children.”
Today, April 30th, is the culmination of a month long celebration of children and books sponsored mostly by public and school libraries, museums, community centers and bookstores around the country. I know that in Colorado, where I live, there have been a series of events throughout the state and that more than 400 libraries nationwide have posted their celebrations at Día’s official website. But even if you can’t find any events near you, the main idea behind Día is that we all encourage our children to read and our libraries to reflect this country’s diversity.
“When the idea for Día came to me from above in the spring of 1996, I had been writing first for adults and then for children, and I noticed that books by Latinos and about Latinos were not being published and supported as they should be given our demographics,” Mora said via email from her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, right before she left to participate in Día celebrations across the United States. “One in four children under five today in the U.S. is Latino, yet only 2% of the children’s books published are by or about Latinos.”
Mora, who was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, has written more than 25 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for adults and children – many of them bilingual.
“Iwrite bilingual books because I am bilingual. I have no memory of not speaking both languages. Lucky me,” she explained. “I want Latino children to be proud of their home or heritage language. Sadly, my publishers tell me that bilingual books don’t sell that well. In addition to buying these books, people who value languages need to speak to their schools, libraries and book stores about purchasing and promoting these books.”
So what else can we do to help change this? The simplest answer: READ, READ AND READ. I love the idea that Ana came up with to start a tradition to buy Camila a new Spanish-language book every year on this date, El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros. So I copied her idea and went and got none other than Pat Mora’s beautifully illustrated Book Fiesta! – her latest bilingual children’s book.
When I read the title to Vanessa, she got really excited and asked: “una fieta, ¿pa mi?” And I told her that indeed, it was a party for her because it was her day, El Día de los Niños! Both my daughter and I were enthralled by the intense colors that jump off the pages to convey a simple message: Reading is fun!
Vanessa’s favorite page, by far, is the one with the big picture of the moon because she has to flip the book on its side to be able to read what it says:
Y en nuestras camitas le leemos a la luna,
All About Books…
Book Fiesta is actually an expansion of the song Mora came up with a few years ago to celebrate Día. You can read the lyrics here. Another one of the great things about this book is that it includes a list of ideas for celebrating El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros, including:
Host a Book Fiesta with food, music and games – but make sure books are at the center of your celebration!
- give away books as party favors or gifts
- select one book as the party theme and decorate accordingly
- help children dress up as their favorite books or characters
- include storytellers and puppet shows whenever possible
- make your own books and/or bookmarks
“I encourage parents to read to their children from the time they are little and to make that time a special time,” explains Mora. “It’s also important that children see us reading and that we make visits to the library and book stores pleasant events.”
I know for a fact that this is great advice. When I think of mi papá, the image of him holding a book always comes to mind. I never understood how he managed to find time to read, but he did and it made him happy. I’m infinitely grateful to him for showing my siblings and I that reading is awesome! I guess Mora was lucky to have a parent who thought so, too.
“I love to read, one of the many gifts my dear mom gave me. It’s a huge pleasure to share what we love” she told me. “Also, I know that literacy is power and essential in our democracy.”
As a special gift to SpanglishBaby readers, Pat Mora is giving away one autographed copy of “Book Fiesta!” to one lucky visitor. ¡Gracias, Pat!
All you have to do is leave us a comment letting us know what you think about having a celebration like Día or what you do to celebrate books and reading with your children?
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This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, May 3rd 2009. Good luck to all!
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