Desert Garden Gift

In our cactus garden, the small century plant, agave Americana also known as maguey, amazed us by blooming this June. Natives of Mexico, Texas and Arizona, century plants bloom at the end of their lives. What a lovely notion.

Walter Dean Myers: A Diversity Legacy

Walter Dean Myers died July 1. This is sad news to readers, educators and literacy advocates. His New York Times article, Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? continued his rich legacy. A prolific author and moving speaker, he tirelessly promoted the importance of diverse books for our diverse children and young people.

His physical presence and voice will be missed, but his literary voice, an inspiration, live on.

Celebrating the 4th of July

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby MartinezThe 4th 2014 will be a memorable one. My husband and I will celebrate our granddaughter’s first 4th with her and her parents. I’m also thinking of all the new citizens who are proudly celebrating their first 4th. My daughter Libby and I wrote I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE, a family story, to honor the proud new citizens of the United States.

Individually and collectively, we Americans are planning an annual celebration of our country, our freedoms, and our shared values. As we listen to and read the news, we are daily reminded of the challenges we face to be a beacon of hope that justice and compassion can prevail. May our fun on the 4th deepen our commitment to work collaboratively to create a rich legacy for our diverse children.

June 14, Flag Day

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted our American flag. Visiting the Santa Fe Botanical Garden recently, I was intrigued at how metal artist Kevin Box interpreted what’s often known as the Stars and Stripes. Artists amaze us, don’t they? I also loved the title of this piece, part of Box’s Origami Garden exhibit, “Basket Full of Stars.” I thought not only of our 50 states but of our wishes for this diverse, multi-cultural and multi-lingual country, our basket full of wishes for the well-being of our young who will inherit the country we’re shaping together.

Pat Mora and daughter Libby Martinez, authors of I Pledge Allegiance.

Pat Mora and daughter Libby Martinez, authors of
I Pledge Allegiance.

A New Día Dynamo

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.

Roxana Barillas

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.

A Taste of Heaven

What a wonderful time I enjoyed in Columbia, SC, at the end of April. I was there for the Richland Library’s annual Augusta Baker’s Dozen Storytelling Celebration, to do a workshop on Creative Literacy Leaders and to participate in Día celebrations.

The photos only begin to hint at the royal treatment I received from the minute I arrived until I departed. Library staff wore badges with my picture, and all were friendly and welcoming. As my visit ended, I thought that my time there had been like a taste of heaven. The weather was perfect, flowers were blooming, librarians were enthusiastic about making all patrons feel welcome, and the librarians were committed and excited about their work. I had the good fortune to enjoy meals at which our conversations were about books, why literacy is so important, how Día can be part of attracting new families, of the need for books by diverse authors, and the need for librarians to enthusiastically use and share such books. I’m deeply grateful to those who coordinated my visit and to all who gave me big smiles.

Pat Mora visits the Richland Library in Columbia SC  Pat Mora visits the Richland Library in Columbia SC
Pat Mora visits the Richland Library in Columbia SC  Pat Mora visits the Richland Library in Columbia SC

¡Gracias! ¡Gracias!

5th annual DiapaloozaDuring April, children and families all over the country have enjoyed Día at libraries, parks, schools and homes, and have continued the tradition of celebrating Children’s Day, Book Day in different languages and with activities for the whole family that remind us of what fun literacy, stories and reading together can be. I was with the Richland Library this April and felt so lucky to have my photo taken with Maurice Sendak’s amazing art.

I’m grateful to all the librarians, staff and volunteers who created opportunities for diverse families to enjoy being together to honor children and to savor bookjoy. Let’s share what we’re learning as we continue to grow Día and to prepare for our 20th anniversary in 2016.

Pat Mora at the Richland Library, April 2014