With springtime showers and warmer weather comes the fun-filled day known as El día de los ninos/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), or Dia for short, which underscores the importance of literacy for kids of every background. Officially celebrated on April 30, this nationally recognized program strives to honor children by connecting them with a range of diverse books at their local libraries.
Día is an offshoot of Children’s Day, which started in 1925 as a result of the inaugural ‘World Conference for the Well Being of Children’ in Geneva, Switzerland. Years later, in 1996, author Pat Mora made the connection between this celebration of childhood and literacy; the next year her brilliant idea was backed by Día’s first partner REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.
Día programming is spearheaded by librarians all over the U.S. and runs the gamut from bilingual story hours and book clubs to crafts, music, speakers, and appearances by children’s authors. “The name Día also has an appropriate tagline—Diversity in Action—which was developed by the staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina,” explains Aimee Strittmatter, executive director of the Association of Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The scope of Día has expanded to include an African American focus, with grants to be awarded to libraries for multicultural children’s books to enhance programming.
ALA tracks participation through a national registry, though the actual number of libraries with Día events is likely much higher. “In 2016, almost 600 libraries registered, serving over 100,000 children and their families,” notes Strittmatter. Mora continues her work as a writer, while also blogging regularly about the ongoing success of Día, including its 20th anniversary last year. “I collaborate with Día’s partner organizations to promote our goals: a year of creatively sharing ‘bookjoy’ with all children and their families, representing many languages and cultures,” she notes.
Intense planning has yielded a wide array of programming across the country for Día 2017. Rene Bue, programming and outreach coordinator at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, WI, is hoping to double her Día attendance this year with expanded events. “We’ll begin by sharing the planned books and then families will have a chance to participate in extension activities around the room, such as crafts, games and snacks,” she explains. Her literary lineup includes Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon, and Rukhsana Khan’s Big Red Lollipop. “As is the case every year, each child who attends our Día celebration gets to choose a book to keep,” she adds.
Children in New York City will have similar access to free Día programming in over 200 public library branches in all five boroughs. In the Bronx, at West Farm Library, a program titled “Petite Picasso” is on deck, per Amy Geduldig, spokesperson for the New York Public Library. Toddlers ages two to four will hear picture books and dabble in an art activity at this specially themed event. Meanwhile, over on the west coast at the Multnomah County Library in Mulnomah, OR, families will enjoy music, story hours, STEM activities, and educational crafts based on The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh and others from the ALA booklist ‘2017 Building STEAM with Dia.’ Also on the schedule is a reading of Magdalena’s Picnic by Patricia Aguilar Morrissey, says Ana I. Ruiz Morillo, the library’s Spanish outreach program coordinator.
The Mecklenburg team in Charlotte will feature author and illustrator Angela Dominguez, along with her books How Do You Say? ¿Cómo Se Dice?, Maria Had a Little Llama, and Knit Together. Activities for their finale at the end of April include a visit from Buddy of PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train and a tasting of breads from around the world. The culmination will also feature children from different preschools demonstrating their early literacy skills as they reenact one of Dominguez’s tales, reports Meryle A. Leonard, the library’s outreach manager.
Día falls on a Sunday this year, when libraries are often closed, so many are planning to hold celebrations the day before, on Saturday, April 29.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a Manhattan-based reporter who works with Parents.com and National Geographic KIDS books.
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