I’m pleased to introduce our newest Día Dynamo. Originally from El Salvador, Roxana Barillas is Director of Hispanic Engagement for First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has provided over 110 million books to children through its network of over 90,000 educators, librarians and program leaders serving children in need. Roxana’s own immigrant experience has shaped her professional and service career. I haven’t met Roxana but have been so grateful for her enthusiasm about Día and for her determination to expand Día’s impact on all children and families.
1. When and how did you become interested in sharing bookjoy?
I volunteered as a tutor, mentor and teacher during high school and college, but spreading bookjoy on a large scale is due to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 115 million free and low-cost books to programs and schools serving children in need — that’s tons of bookjoy!
2. How did you first learn about Día and what has been your experience with Día?
I had heard about El día de los niños, but I had not heard about how communities were tying the celebration to literacy until I joined First Book. My colleague Alison Morris met Pat Mora and introduced us. I have had the pleasure of learning about Día’s history and evolution through her, Día partners and Día Dynamos. At the time, we were preparing to launch a new category on the First Book Marketplace featuring books by Latino authors and illustrators and about Latino stories and characters, so I was able to reach out to Día partners to share the opportunity of adding even more bookjoy with these books at amazing discounts for their Día activities.
3. What are your hopes for Día’s future at First Book and nationally?
We share the aspiration of Día partners to make it a national celebration for all children. This year, in an effort to spread the word about Día, First Book sponsored with Qlovi our first El día de los niños, El día de los libros Virtual Read Aloud featuring eight authors and illustrators featured in the Latino Culture category of the First Book Marketplace. They shared their stories and talents with 35,000 young viewers in classrooms, afterschool programs and child care settings. Univisión, LULAC National Educational Service Centers and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation joined us as sponsors. More partners for even more bookjoy for all children!
4. What helpful tip(s) do you have for those organizing a Día event for the first time?
Become a Día ambassador and help connect programs, schools, libraries and community venues to Día celebrations. Engage families in the planning process and bring together partners from various sectors to make it a community celebration that continues to grow. Provide books as incentives to draw families to your Día activities. If you don’t have a book budget, First Book makes it easy for you to host a Virtual Book Drive so that children who may not own any books can receive a brand-new book they can read with their families.
5. What is your favorite example of Bookjoy either as a child or adult?
Reading Gabriel García Marquez short stories and novels on long flights.
6. What are you reading now?
I just finished The Absolutely True Diary of a A Part-Time Indian and can’t wait to discuss it at our First Book employee YA Book Club.