I had the opportunity to attend the 33rd annual Virginia Hamilton Conference at Kent State University in early April. The event is the longest-running event focusing entirely on multicultural literature for children. One of the highlights of the program is the awarding of the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award. This year’s honoree is Pat Mora, author of over forty books for children, teens and young adults.
Pat is also the founder of El día de los niños/El día de los libros, (Children’s Day/Book Day), or simply Dia.
I must admit, that despite being directly involved in children’s literature for nearly twenty years as both children’s book festival founder (www.clairesday.org) and children’s book author, I knew nothing about Dia.
So, what is Dia? And what can we do as writers of children’s literature to participate and promote the initiative?
Dia’s roots began in 1925 at the first World Conference for the Well Being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland. Children’s Day was established after the conference, intended to bring attention to children’s issues. Many countries, including the Soviet Union, encouraged the publication of children’s books.
The Parade of the Red Army, Soviet Union, 1931.
In 1996, Pat Mora proposed connecting the celebration of children with literacy. The following year her concept was endorsed by REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking. The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is now the home to Dia.
Dia is intended to be a daily commitment to connecting children and families to diverse books, languages and cultures. April 30th is designated as the culmination of the year-long celebrations.
Libraries across the United States celebrate Dia with book clubs, bilingual story times, and, (yay!) guest appearances by children’s book authors and illustrators.
ALSC has a website, where book suggestions, toolkits and great resources can be downloaded to help with a Dia Celebration. Check it out: www.dia.ala.org
The website has a locator tab to find a Dia event near you: http://cs.ala.org/websurvey/alsc/dia/map.cfm
Pat offered in her comments to the audience at Kent State University that we in Ohio were not doing enough to spread the mission of Dia. There is only one event listed in the national registry in my home state. Pat is right. We can do more.
My hope is to somehow bring together a collaborative effort to celebrate Dia with our partner library system, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and our Claire’s Day event. Stay Tuned.
What will you do to support this important mission of connecting children with books? Perhaps you could read of one of your works at your local library. Or, maybe volunteer to share multicultural books with children at your nearby school. Or, even just share the Dia website with your local school and/or library.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Book Fiesta, written by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael Lopez.