Spring! Even when its first days don’t match our spring fantasies, just the word and the calendar confirmation cheer us up. I was certainly also cheered by my visit this month to the University of Georgia (in Athens) where I spoke at their 44th Annual Conference on Children’s Literature. What a pleasure to meet friendly UGA professors and students, area teachers and librarians, and to hear talented Deborah Wiles, Angela Johnson, and Molly Bang.
Thanks to my new friend Dr. Denise Davila, I spoke to pre-service teachers, visited a tutoring center and a library in a trailer camp, and–met librarian Denise Payne. Her Día enthusiasm amazed me. I’ll let her tell you her Día plans.
Día— Letting Children Lead the Way
As an elementary school media specialist, the idea for celebrating Día at J.J. Harris Charter School in Athens, Georgia began as many great things do in my life—with inspiration from a book. Brightly colored Book Fiesta caught my attention after receiving more than 500 Spanish and bilingual books for J.J. Harris students through a Foreign Language Assistance Program grant. I was enthralled with the idea of celebrating El día de los niños, El día de los libros/ Children’s Day, Book Day, an event that commemorates two of the things I consider most precious in the world – books and children.
I soon shared Book Fiesta with the Spanish, Art, Music, and P.E. teachers asking for their assistance in creating a day to celebrate books and children at J.J. Harris. This is the team to call whenever there is an event at the school for all of the students. I can honestly say that our P.E. coach has never turned down an opportunity to dress in a costume for any occasion we can think up. With a team to support hosting the event, I approached the principal with our idea. She enthusiastically said yes and our preparations began.
As I began thinking through the process of creating our first Día celebration, I realized that I have a large cadre of untapped resources—the students. Students at J.J. Harris participate in school-wide enrichment clusters on a weekly basis and have done incredible work in the school and community. So, with this in mind, we asked the 5th grade students if they would like to help in planning. The 5th grade teachers found standards that would tie in with the planning of such a grand event and our work was set to begin.
In a moment of pure serendipity a few weeks later, University of Georgia (UGA) children’s literature professor Denise Davila shared with me that Pat Mora, the author of Book Fiesta would be visiting Athens as a keynote speaker for Georgia’s Children’s Book Award Conference at UGA. Denise’s and my casual conversation soon turned into a wondering aloud if Pat Mora might talk with J.J. Harris students during a planning meeting about our Día celebration. INTERESTED? OF COURSE!!!
Within a matter of days, we invited local school and public library media specialists, independent book vendors, and parents to attend our Día brainstorming and information session with the students. On March 7, 2013, J. J. Harris Elementary was blessed with the presence of the author, Pat Mora. Pat graciously answered the question after question of the students and adults in attendance. At the end of the session, as Pat talked with a group of mothers from the community, an additional resource was discovered— a mother who had attended Día events in Mexico! We can’t wait to get started and will update you on the progress and celebration.
Photo of tree: Boulder Dam, Michigan by Laura Slider