April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Twelve Libraries Apply & Win Día Mini-Grants: Here’s How

As dwindling funds and looming budget cuts reach many of the nation’s public libraries, 12 institutions received $5,000 mini-grants to support programming in their diverse communities. After a time-intensive process, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) recently gifted these Día Family Book Club Program awards to expand El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día) into an ongoing yearlong celebration. The winning libraries give SLJ some insights into how they garnered the much-needed funds.

Founded in 1997 by children’s author Pat Mora—with the help from the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA)—Día (Children’s Day/Book Day), “emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds” and culminates yearly on April 30. The winning libraries ranged widely in diversity of population, grant application-savvy, and level of experience in celebrating Día.

The grant announcement came right on time for Linda Atkinson of Joliet Public Library, IL. The early childhood literacy coordinator had been looking for a way to expand programming for her growing Latino community, and was already planning the library’s first official Día celebration. “The 2010 Census showed us that Spanish-speakers make up a third of our city’s population,” she tells School Library Journal. “We had already started a bilingual storytime to address that change. For us, Día is every day.”

Joliet will be using its grant funds to host a six-week bilingual family book club which will focus on early literacy skills, with guest appearances by Spanish storyteller Marina Morino, folk dancers, and Paleta the ice cream man, Atkinson says.

Lucía Gonzalez is not a stranger to the Día party. The library director at North Miami Public Library, FL, has celebrated the book fiesta in every institution she has been employed. She piloted a similar book club program when she began as director two years ago. Because of her past experience, the mini-grant was a perfect fit for what she had already implemented at the library, she tells SLJ.

A predominantly Haitian American community, North Miami’s first book club session will kick off with visits by a Haitian American author to the participating 12 elementary schools in the area, and then continue with book club meetings every two weeks. “There will be a facilitator and a translator, and a bilingual book discussion led by local storyteller Lilian Nerette Louise,” says Gonzalez. “Parents will have the experience of reading books together with their children. They are mostly working parents and it’s very hard to get them to the library. We’re also offering them a nice sit-down dinner.”

The mini-grants are part of the Everyone Reads @ Your Library grant awarded to ALSC from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and applicants had be located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center, or corporate office.

In fact, the East Branch Library in Irving, Texas is housed in the same building as the city’s local Dollar General, and Senior Librarian Corine Barberena sees the grant as an opportunity to recharge its Día program, which hadn’t been organized in the past few years. Her “Books Matter at Your Library” program will be mostly after school, and will be incorporating technology as part of the bilingual storytime portion. Barbarena anticipates using some of the grant funds to purchase an Elmo Digital Visual presenter and the online picture books website, Tumblebooks, to project the print text in order to facilitate English and Spanish language learning, she tells SLJ. However, she plans to go the traditional route for the program launch on April 29: the Artes de la Rosa group from Fort Worth will be performing Pinocchia, a bilingual version of Pinocchio.

Barberena says the service-oriented Irving community has already responded to the impending program with interest. “We have a long list of partners, and hope to work with them to host the bilingual book club sessions in various venues, including the parks recreation center and many of the schools,” she notes. “The library is housed in the county Human Services building, so all of the local social service agencies will be advertising and promoting for us.”

Florida’s Orlando Public Library youth programs assistant Jackie Padilla and youth outreach coordinator Natalie Houston also found that having strong relationships and partnerships with local businesses and talent was a big plus in applying for this award. Community groups, Houston says, can “either help spread the news about programs, or donate their time and services. We’ve used a local deejay for entertainment, a Cuban bakery for refreshments, etc. But these relationships have to be built over time.”

Houston, who wrote the grant for this award, says another boon in their favor was that they had already done a lot of the research needed for the application for previous grants. Most of the legwork had been completed before the deadline, which helped them reach the quick turnaround date. Padilla stresses the need to understand and continually evaluate programs and community. This will be Orlando’s seventh Día program, and the library will extend the celebration into the whole year until next April with bilingual storytimes and its “Cuentame un cuento /Tell Me a Story Book Club.” Some of the picture books featured will include Susan Middleton Elya’s Say Hello to Spanish as an introduction to vocabulary, and a perennial favorite, a Fisher Price CD with Spanish cultural songs as the final giveaway.

Most of the winning libraries tell SLJ that they will use the grant to aid in longstanding children’s services goals.

Youth services librarian Lani Revell, at the City of Palmdale Library, CA, hopes to encourage an intergenerational connection among with the four programs that the min-grant will be funding in her library. Some of the books discussed will include Tony Johnston’s My Abuelita and Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. “These stories emphasize storytelling and sharing memories with the whole family,” she says.

Tina Viglucci, Hispanic services manager at Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL, will integrate her book club within Gail Borden’s STEM-focused programming. As a precursor to the library’s summer reading activities, its sessions will introduce children to community gardening during its “Forest Fiesta,” and even focus on geology when it becomes a stop on the Super Croc—the largest crocodile fossil unearthed—tour, hosted by Project Exploration. The “Libros Books Family Fiestas” program will target the 8–11 age group. “We saw that attendance at the library usually started to drop off around third to sixth grade. We hope that these programs will help plant the seeds of literacy,” says Viglucci.

Tracee Yawger, head of children’s services for Montgomery County’s Norristown Public Library, PA, began a Día celebration with her local elementary school when the 2010 Census showed a dramatic 196 percent increase of the town’s Hispanic population. Yawger credits school principal Jeanette Fernandez for fostering a climate of inclusion for Hispanic parents. “Because of our partnership with the school, we were able to have a library card drive to make it easy for Latino parents to get kids cards without being intimidated, since they’ve already provided personal information to the school,” she tells SLJ. “Now, 86 percent of the student body has cards.” Working with volunteers from Bryn Mawr College’s “Mujeres” group and the school district’s parent association has also proved to be a huge resource, she says.

Día events are not just for the Latino population. Yawger plans to have all storytimes in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (ASL), “to give the program a more inclusive feel because we can all benefit from this.”

Herb Landau, library director of the Lancaster Public Library, PA, wants to emphasize the ways the different cultural groups of his community are the same. “Our patrons come from backgrounds as varied as Latino, Amish, Nepali, and Egyptian,” he says. “Our library’s citizenship class has at least 28 nationalities represented. Food is a common denominator, and so we decided to modify our popular adult multicultural cooking program for families and children: Cocina y Culturas Familiares/Cultures and Cooking for Families.”

Coordinated by children and teen services manager Jessica Pérez Blasko, Lancaster’s program will include three family book club readings of a multilingual children’s book which will focus on a type of universal food such as flatbreads: tortilla (Mexican), roti and naan (Indian), pancakes (Kenyan), matzo (Jewish),  and pita (Greek). For grant applications, it’s important that applicants respond to needs of the community after thorough assessment, Landau says, adding, “We found that events food in our community generally draws in people. A local joke is that eating is a hobby here. Think out of the box and be imaginative.”

Only 12 libraries received the mini-grants but that shouldn’t stop libraries from celebrating the special day. Día promotes reading and appreciation of different cultures.

Vilma Martinez of Springdale Public Library, AK, who will be hosting a multicultural-themed book club called MOSAIC, suggests displaying and reading multicultural books during storytime. “Make your regular storytime fun and interactive. Decorate with balloons and have refreshments. Even hang up a piñata. It doesn’t have to be too expensive,” she says.

Elizabeth Marcus, children’s librarian at Finkelstein Memorial Library, Spring Valley, NY, encourages those who want to make their own fiesta to use already established partnerships to make your celebration special. “We’re libraries. We have and are built-in resources.”

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.



  1. A free downloadable Día Family Book Club Toolkit will be available soon through the Día website (http://dia.ala.org). This will be a great resource for everyone interested in planning a Día Family Book Club.