An Acorn Germinates
Since 1925, Día del niño, or Children’s Day, has grown as an annual celebration throughout Mexico. This day recognizes children, pays homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well being. Pat Mora, a Texas native and nationally recognized author of children’s books, first heard of this Mexican tradition during a 1996 interview for a public radio program. As so often happens, the wheels in her head began to turn as one good idea (Día del niño) bred another one (Día de los libros).
Mora began thinking that promoting literacy went hand in hand with supporting the well being of children. She suggested the idea to Latino faculty and staff at the University of Arizona and they, in turn, contacted the local chapter of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking. MANA del Norte, a woman’s group in Santa Fe that is part of MANA, a national Latina advocacy organization, endorsed the idea. Grass roots support for a celebration linking language and literature to Día del niño grew.
Oralia Garza de Cortés, manager of the children’s department at San Antonio Public Library at the time, immediately offered her support for the concept. With her considerable national voice, she promoted the concept ofEl día de los niños/El día de los libros through REFORMA’s national newsletter and with the newly formed NLCI, the National Latino Children’s Institute.
Through the work of these individuals and organizations, an almost pure example of the old adage “from tiny acorns mighty trees grow,” El día de los niños/El día de los libros became a reality on April 30, 1997. Both the governor of New Mexico and the mayor of Santa Fe issued proclamations marking the event and reiterating the founding principles.
From its inception, the goals of El día de los niños/El día de los libroshave extended beyond a single April 30 observance and called for a daily commitment of:
•honoring children and childhood;
•promoting literacy and the importance of linking all children to books, languages, and cultures;
•honoring home languages and cultures, and thus promoting bilingual and multilingual literacy in this multicultural nation, and global understanding through reading;
•involving parents as valued members of the literacy team; and,
•promoting library collection development that reflects our plurality.
The Tree Grows
From that first metaphorical acorn, Pat Mora’s idea to link literacy with a celebration of children, El día de los niños/El día de los libros has put down national roots. Both MANA and NABE, the National Association of Bilingual Education (http://www.nabe.org), joined REFORMA to promote this day nationwide. Pat Mora and her siblings instituted the Estela and Raúl Mora Award to give both recognition and monetary support annually to a library’s celebration of El día de los niños/Día de los Libros.
The W. K. Kellogg Foundation provided early financial aid by awarding NABE a planning grant in 1998 to establish a national campaign focusing on publicizing El día de los niños/El día de los libros.
Until tomorrow: Find yourself trespassing the barriers of your imagination.