April 3, 2017 | 1 comment
By Pat Mora
In 1996, I founded a family literacy initiative to honor all children and to share bookjoy with them. It’s often known as Día, which means “day” in Spanish. Día, this daily commitment, significantly altered my life and has, I hope, enriched the lives of many committed literacy supporters. By 2018, children of color will be the majority in our country. Together, everyone who values all our children can work together to create a diverse reading nation, proclaiming again and again that literacy is essential in a democracy.
I now have a grand baby, a granddaughter, and I’m savoring the opportunity to share stories and books with Bonny, to continue a cherished family tradition. I want Bonny and all our children to be anticipating the next story, their next book. All our children deserve alegría en los libros, bookjoy.
Children’s Day, Book Day, nickname Día, is an annual April celebration of all our children and of the importance of connecting them to the joy of reading. Known in Spanish as El día de los niños, el día de los libros, this yearlong commitment to creatively working with children and families was founded by author Pat Mora who works with national organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers, First Book, and the Association of Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association. As we annually celebrate moms in May and dads in June, join us in annually celebrating children and exciting them about bookjoy in April.
The official Children's Day, Book Day is April 30.
Día is a yearlong commitment to celebrating all our children and to motivating them and their families to be readers, essential in our democracy. Culminating on April 30, Día celebrations can be used to unite communities and can be held anywhere, such as in libraries, schools, homes and parks. Many national organizations have integrated Día into their efforts to promote literacy and celebrate diversity through reading, including the Association of Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association; REFORMA; First Book; and the American Federation of Teachers.
The sound of the desert wind carries me back to our rock house in El Paso, Texas. Conversations and teasing in English and Spanish were the braided music in our childhood home. Nighttime stories comforted my three siblings and me. Words soaked into us—moon, luna; star, estrella. In time, books extended our verbal experiences. Magic.
I wouldn’t be me without books. Early on, I discovered their pleasure and power. All my reading was in English, though my aunt and grandmother read their prayer books in Spanish. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, but they invested in books. Among my favorites were the Childcraft series, particularly the poetry book.
When I was home sick, I’d pull down that orange volume and savor “Old King Cole,” “Daffy-Down-Dilly” and “Ladybird, Ladybird.” Opening other books, in time, I rode in elegant carriages, learned with Clara Barton, traveled to Russia, heard the wind on a faraway prairie, tasted sorghum molasses, and solved mysteries with Nancy Drew—all through black symbols on a white page. Such wonder.
Early in my life, books became a rich and dominant thread in my family fabric, my memories. Reading was part of my school memories, too—waiting in anticipation for a teacher to read aloud the next section of “B Is for Betsy,” memorizing poems the nuns assigned year after year, rhythms that are still part of me. Through reading, I’d discovered, and still discover, that sitting still at home or in a plane, I can shed my physical self, forget about me, and enter a place or ideas created by a fellow human I’ll probably never meet. Reading expands me.
When my three children were little, I experienced the intimate joy of sharing a habit I loved—reading! How we reveled in Mother Goose and books by Beatrix Potter and Richard Scarry. Now, I watch my adult children when, with a smile, they hold their old, worn books. Each thinks, “This is mine. I loved it best.” They savor book memories, the books that were/are their steady friends. That private family joy prompted me years ago to write my own children’s books, to hand other children some reading pleasure. I imagined a young stranger opening one of my books. Now, my daughter, Libby, who writes with me, also visualizes an unknown reader. Libby and I laugh together as we revise and revise to create “bookjoy.”
Because I’d grown up bilingual, I’ve reached out to children in English and Spanish. Slowly, I began to realize that not all our children were equally valued—many children didn’t see the details of their daily lives affirmed on the page. I realized that growing up a reader, I’d never read about a family who spoke two or more languages, or who enjoyed cheese enchiladas on Friday night. What we called American children’s literature wasn’t a balanced sampling of wonderful voices and traditions, of our plurality. I discovered how parents who spoke many other languages hadn’t had my extensive literacy experience in English; indeed, many felt ashamed of not speaking English. Many low-income parents, including English-speaking parents, didn’t feel welcomed at schools, libraries, and museums nor had they been coached to support their children’s reading habits.
My reading life has been long and rich. Reading helps me to understand my country and my world—our cultural, religious and personal complexities.
Visit FirstBook for more ways to celebrate Dia Day.
Read the Fact Sheet about Dia Day.
About the Author
"Ms. Mora's poems are proudly bilingual, an eloquent answer to purists who refuse to see language as something that lives and changes," wrote The New York Times of Pat Mora's poetry collection, Agua Santa: Holy Water. Other collections include Adobe Odes, Aunt Carmen's Book of Practical Saints, Communion, Borders and Chants, and two collections for young adults, Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love written in the voices of teens, and My Own True Name
A former teacher, university administrator, museum director, and consultant, Pat is a popular speaker who promotes creativity, inclusivity and bookjoy. She has three adult children and a sweet Austin granddaughter. Pat is married to anthropology professor Vern Scarborough and lives in Santa Fe, NM. You can learn more about Pat on her website
Children’s Day, Book Day, nickname Día, is an annual April celebration of all our children and of the importance of connecting them to the joy of reading.
I definitely agree with you. I always tell my students that reading takes you to so many new and exciting places. Thanks for the memories.