Libraries Celebrate Día de los niños/Día de los libros


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Many children, many cultures, many books!
By Steve Zalusky

Each year, libraries participate in an event that highlights how they promote family literacy and include people of all cultural backgrounds.

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day), is a celebration every day of children, families, and reading that culminates yearly on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of advocating literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

As celebrated by libraries and librarians, Día is an enhancement of Children’s Day, a celebration which took hold in 1925 following the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland as a day to bring attention to the importance and well-being of children. Each country selected its own day for the celebration with Mexico and many other Latin American countries choosing April 30.

Among those libraries celebrating will be the Austin Public Library.  

The library's Kanya Lyons said this year the library's youth services department has teamed up with the library's Austin History Center, which is the archive for the city and the county, to put on a program at three of the library's branches. The program involves families, as they learn to create family memory books.

Families will bring photos that can be cut and glued, as well as pictures of favorite places, activities, and foods. They will learn how to preserve precious family photos and important documents, receive an introduction to Austin's genealogy resources for tracing their family tree and make their own family memory book.

In addition, the library has partnered with Austin's PBS station KLRU-TV and the Southeast Branch for a celebration of children and books. It will include a performance by Ballet Folklorico Mexikayotl, followed by stories and scientific exploration. The Cat in the Hat from the new PBS science program The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That and Martha the Talking Dog, from Martha Speaks, a PBS show that builds vocabulary, will make special guest appearances. Finally, guests will get to listen to and view award-winning stories by the winners of this year’s KLRU KIDS GO! Writers Contest. Winners' stories will go on to the national level of the PBS KIDS Go! Writers Contest. 

Lyons said, "The idea is to celebrate multiculturalism and literacy together."

She said the event has evolved since Austin began celebrating it in 1998.

"Originally the focus here was more on our Spanish-speaking population," she said. "(But) we're becoming a lot more multicultural," so it has expanded  to celebrate other cultures as well.

She noted that the area's Asian population has increased.

"We wanted to make sure everyone felt included," emphasizing that the event celebrates all languages with a particular focus on literacy.

She said one of the aims is simply to get children into the library, especially children who speak a different language or may come from an immigrant family that may not be familiar with libraries and the fact that they offer free services - she pointed out that in some other countries, the library is not free. 

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day) has a storied history of its own.

Pat MoraA key player in promoting the event was author and poet  Pat Mora, who learned about the holiday in Mexico and realized that the United States had nothing similar. She proposed linking Children's Day, the celebration of childhood and children, with literacy and bilingualism, creating a new holiday: El día de los niños/El día de los libros.

With assistance from members of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, Mora further developed the concept and began planning for the first celebration, to be held on April 30, 1997.

On April 30, 1997, the first El día de los niños/El día de los libros celebrations were held in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Tucson, Arizona; and El Paso and Austin, Texas.

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day)Later in 1997, the Texas State Library, under the direction of Jeanette Larson, produced a planning booklet to help librarians develop local programs to celebrate El día de los niños/El día de los libros. The first Día logo was designed by James Larson.

In 1998, a grant was awarded from the Kellogg Foundation to allow the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) to develop a plan for a national campaign to disseminate information on El día de los niños/El día de los libros. By 1999, schools and libraries across the country were hosting their own celebrations and creating book joy for children from all backgrounds.

The American Library Association formalized its support for El día de los niños/El día de los libros in 2001 when the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, applied for and received a W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant to promote the concepts of El día de los niños/El día de los libros. As a result, ALSC produced a tip sheet for librarians who were launching their own events and a brochure that librarians could distribute to parents. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation awarded a second grant to ALSC in 2002 to produce and distribute another Día brochure, in Spanish, for parents. In 2002 and 2003 the W. K. Kellogg Foundation also funded Día projects in North Carolina, Texas, and Arizona. 

By 2004, El día de los niños/El día de los libros had become a tradition in many schools and libraries and found its permanent home with the Association for Library Service to Children.

The Día website has posted some resources, including a reading list, for parents and kids.

Hundreds of libraries throughout the country host special programs and events for Día. Use this online map to find an event near you.



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