Interview with the 2016 Mora Award Winner, Sonia M. Sotomayor Early College High School

I’m honored to interview the winner of the 2016 Estela and Raúl Mora Award on my blog. Congratulations to librarian Carolina Castillo and her Día team from the Sonia M. Sotomayor Early College High School in Pharr, Texas.

How did you first become interested in Día and how long ago was that?
Día has always been a big part of our libraries at Phaar-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA). We PSJA librarians love to celebrate El Día de los niños, El Día de los libros, whether it is explaining what the day is or simply giving out books to our students with bookmarks commemorating the day. We love to celebrate our students and what better way than with a book to add to their collection or start their own bookshelf?

When did you begin to plan your 2016 celebration? Did you work with a team and, if so, who created the team? Was having a team helpful? Challenging?
When I moved from an elementary campus to a high school library, I was stumped. How do I celebrate Día and make it memorable at the high school? I got together with the English Language Arts teachers, Mrs. Amy Molina and Joanne Garcia, and we decided to make the celebration an eventful week with our teenage parents. Since our teenage moms do have the double duty of reading for themselves and for their babies, we needed them to know how important reading is and how celebrating this day must be important to them as well. Having a team was especially helpful to me. I travel to three different alternative schools which is very difficult. The team assisted me, and we worked together as a school. All our awesome teachers helped in the making of this special event.

What do you think made your 2016 celebration special?
Working together as a school and making the event significant for the students made the celebration special. We made the day about our students even though they have their own children. We like to think of them as adults; however, they are still young. I really hope they teach their babies to love books and reading.

How do you and your program and your school feel about winning the Mora Award?
We feel very proud to have received this award. Our students are hard workers and deserve recognition for their efforts. Learning about reading and the importance while celebrating students and books is just absolutely remarkable. I am overjoyed that our school received the recognition it deserves. Thank you once again for this acknowledgement, Ms. Mora!

What did you learn from your celebration this year?
I learned how the perception of the teacher really transmits to the students. When the students see teachers enjoying and celebrating books, the students too become curious and want to know and change their mind about reading. Many of our students had not read since elementary school and getting them excited about reading and books made the celebration truly special.

What three key pieces of advice would you give to those ready to plan their first Día celebration in spring 2017?
Advice to those who have celebrated before? Collaborate. The collaboration of teachers, students, and the whole school made the successful celebration possible. Because we all worked together, the work didn’t feel like a chore. It was not perfect, yet the students felt special and that was the whole reason for our efforts.

Why are Día and sharing bookjoy important to you?
Día and sharing bookjoy are very important especially for me as a librarian. As librarians, we are always trying to make the right match, book to students. When the student finds the right book that she or he can connect with and love, it will make the students want to read more. The more books they read, the better students do in school. I hope to make more and more connections and have our students value the love of reading.

2016 Mora winners


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