Pat’s History of Día:
Children’s Day, Book Day/El día de los niños, El día de los libros
Every year, hundreds of April book fiestas are held across the country in libraries, schools, parks and community organizations. The goal for these events is: Creating April Día literacy celebrations that unite communities.
April 2016 was Día’s 20th anniversary. In 1996, while being interviewed for a public radio program at the University of Arizona in Tucson, I first learned about the annual Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30th as El día del niño, the Day of the Child. This tradition evolved from the first “World Conference for the Well-being of Children” held in Geneva, Switzerland in August 1925 at which various countries passed the “Geneva Declaration Protecting Children.”
As a mom I knew that children often ask, “Why do we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and not Children’s Day?” As a reader, I wanted (and want) to foster bookjoy. Ah ha, I thought. What if we link a celebration of children with literacy, an issue central to the well-being of children? That day, Latino faculty and staff at the University of Arizona enthusiastically supported the concept of annual Día celebrations. Members of the Tucson Chapter of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, presented the concept to the local chapter with the hope of initiating planning for April 30th, 1997.
Texas librarian and independent scholar, Oralia Garza de Cortés, then chair of REFORMA’s children’s committee, added her enthusiasm, knowledge and ideas and began to share information about the concept with REFORMA members nationally. A year of intense planning by various organizations began in numerous cities.
In February, l997, REFORMA, my first organizational partner, voted to endorse Día as a family literacy initiative and of promoting Día throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. REFORMA has been a leader in this effort.
On April 30, 1997, the first annual Día celebrations were held in cities including Tucson, El Paso, and Austin.