Pat’s Visit to Zavala Elementary School

This past September, I received an e-mail from a young school librarian. She had heard that I was going to be speaking in my home city of El Paso, Texas, and she wrote urging me to visit her school. She spoke of her commitment to El día de los niños / El día de los libros ( Día) and promised me that her students would be well-prepared for my visit and well-behaved. I called Lisa and gained energy and inspiration from her excitement about sharing bookjoy. Meeting her was a highlight of 2010. Thanks, Lisa, for making me feel so welcome and Zavala Elementary and for preparing such a special morning for me.

1. Why did you become a librarian?
LL: I was born in El Paso, Texas but grew up across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua until I was thirteen years old. Since I completed my elementary education in a city where libraries are non-existent, the first thing I did when I moved to El Paso, TX from Juarez, was to sign-up for a public library card. I recall feeling right at home every time I set foot in such a wondrous print-rich environment. By the time I finished my undergraduate degree in early childhood education, I could not help but feel a void in my professional accomplishments. I decided to apply to graduate school at the University of North Texas and pursue a Masters in Library and Information Science, which I have just completed in the summer of 2010! I love being a librarian and instilling a love of literature and reading.

2. What are some of the comments students made following the author visit?
LL: Students were so excited to meet Pat Mora! They kept making remarks about her upbringing in El Paso TX, and her founding of the Día celebration that allowed them to relate to her creative work. Our students keep checking out her books with such enthusiasm that there is a waiting list to check out her autographed copies.

3. Why did you think an author visit was important and how did you prepare for the visit?

LL: An author school visit is always such an honor to host because not only do they motivate students to read more, they also give students hope that maybe someday they too can be acclaimed authors. Hosting Pat Mora at our campus was such an enlightening experience not just because we hold 27 copies of her books, but because of her founding of El Día de Los Niños – Día de Los Libros. This literary fiesta is famously celebrated in our hometown of El Paso, TX. As a lover of literature and advocate of libraries, I have volunteered in previous Día celebrations as a storyteller. Preparing for her school visit was so memorable because her arrival coincided with the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month! I personally decorated our cafeteria auditorium with festive Mexican “papel picado” flags, miniature piñatas, student-made welcoming banners, a myriad of her books, and the US-Mexico Consulate donated books in Spanish for children. The procession ended with the distribution of “Marranitos” Mexican sweet bread for every student. I purchased these treats at Bowie Bakery, the famous bakery in El Paso depicted in Mrs. Mora’s The Bakery Lady, a Zavala favorite!

4. Why is Día important to you and how do you hope to celebrate Día’s 15th Anniversary?
LL: Our Dia Celebration is so important to me because it is the greatest opportunity to cherish books, reading, and family literacy in general. As the all-time favorite saying goes “Los Padres y Ninos que leen juntos, crecen juntos”, “The family that reads together, grows together” and so it is my primary goal to witness the flourishing of a community of readers. Books and storytelling are capable of bridging the gap between generations and thus bringing everybody closer together. Our school community makes plans way ahead of time to take everybody along in the family to celebrate Día at Washington Park. Last year alone, 20,000 gathered to celebrate here in our border area!

Día’s 15th Anniversary will be celebrated similarly to last year with one difference. I will plan for a thematic unit at our library on fairytales and folktales in which students will get to create their own folktales and perform those using marionettes. We’ll record the performances to create a digital storytelling event at our campus. A group of students will also accompany me to Día’s celebration to perform their folktales at the storytelling booth. I’m adding something new for the anniversary and implementing a family literacy month throughout March. This will prepare my students who are storytelling at the actual Día celebration. In addition, children and families will get the opportunity to enjoy live theatrical plays based on classic folk tales and fairy tales using my marionette set. The family literacy program will take place on every Saturday of March for two hours of performance and read alouds at Washington Park (where the real Día celebrations take place!). I will make flyers for families to advertise and motivate them to attend.

5. What are you reading now?
LL: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


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