Friday, April 16, 2021

Children's Day/Book Day Celebrates 25 years! We Catch Up with Pat Mora

La Bloga has the distinct privilege to speak with author and educator Pat Mora on the 25th anniversary of Children's Day/Book Day. Below is our conversation.

Pat, give us some background on Children's Day/Book Day.

This literacy initiative is a collaboration of national and state library and literacy organizations, educators, presses, and readers creatively striving to share bookjoy and its importance. Culminating April 30th, it is a year-long celebration of reading and the love of books. Children’s Day, Book Day encourages April book fiestas, in libraries, schools, homes, parks, etc.

In 1996, I learned about the Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30th as El día del niño, the day of the child. I thought, “We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We need kids’ day too, but I want to connect all children with bookjoy, the pleasure of reading.” I was enthusiastically assisted to start this family literacy initiative by REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking. The Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has also been an active partner. Another enthusiastic national partner is First Book, who serve as judges for the Estela and Raúl Mora Award.

 Tell us about your love of reading and the origins of Bookjoy.

Well, I am a very lucky woman for many reasons, and one of the big reasons is I come from a wonderful family.  I had wonderful parents, very devoted parents both. I'm going to talk particularly about my mom when I talk about reading. My mom, who was born in El Paso, as was I and all my kids, was a reader as a little girl. Neither of her parents spoke English, but she was just a little girl on fire when she discovered books. And in fact, her father would call out in the evening and say to her, you know, turn off the light because she'd get on you just like in the story. She would get under the covers with her flashlight and be reading. So I'm a writer, thanks to my mom. I'm a reader, thanks to my mom.  Reading is a necessity, not a luxury. 

What message do you have for teachers as a major resource for reading and literacy?

Well, as all good teachers know and I taught early In that case, then we're trying to introduce them to new kinds of books and to the subtleties of reading. How do we support them without having them feel deficient? And I think that's a real challenge, you know, and I think gifted teachers and I have through the years have a way of connecting with students.  Affirming what they are, what they know, and then supporting them to put that on the page. And that can happen with a third-grader.

Often individually, if a teacher was working with elementary school students, they can meet with parents individually and talk about how to create a space at home for study. Now, that's very basic, but there are things we take for granted, right? I mean, and encouraging parents, whether they speak English or not, to expect the child to read every day. 

I mean, I'm a grandmother now, and I am after my granddaughter on FaceTime, because they need to become readers. So it wasn't so much reading as a chore. It was reading as a joy ride. And just, you know, wherever I think kids can connect and find their joy in that world begins to expand for them. And then you have all the attention, skills, building out from that. And teachers have a lot of material to work with.

Talk about Children's Day/Book Day, its evolution at age twenty-five.

So I was just working on a piece because on the website, we're going to do something big for the twenty-fifth and actually, now we call it Children's Day/Book Day.  It was previously known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros. I realized we had to be more inclusive. When I was visiting schools for a local celebration and  I saw students who did not speak Spanish I could see on their faces, they did not feel part of the celebration.

So the reality is that it's wonderful to be bilingual and whether that's Mandarin or Spanish or Pakistani, whatever. But the reality is that English is the official language of the United States. This is a national celebration, Children's Day, Book Day, every day of the year. And then the celebration, April 30th. Great, and again, I think this is an important evolution that is more inclusive, reaching out to African-American students, Anglo students, Asian students, and Native American students. The joy of reading is for all.

Pat Mora Reads Book Fiesta on Vimeo


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