Reading advocates, literacy promoters, and bilingual education activists have been working the entire month of April promoting April 30th, as “El Día De Los Libros” or simply “Día,” a day to share reading and books with Latino and all children.
Día was conceived by Latina author Pat Mora, who wrote:
“We were inspired to start this initiative by Mexico’s annual national tradition El día del niño, the day of the child. Knowing how essential literacy is in our country, we combined the celebration with linking all our children and young people to reading.”
El Día de los libros has been embraced by educators and librarians as a means of reaching underserved and underrepresented children.
ASLC, the Association for Library Service to Children, is a major promoter. ASLC’s parent organization is the American Library Association, who offer mini-grants for local library programing and are building a local Día event registry.
ASLC sponsored a webcast View Building STEAM with Día: The Why’s and Hows to Getting Started with organizing tips, and the ALA offers Dia materials , a resource guide and Día handouts.
Others are involved as well. REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking) has a guide to holding a bilingual story time.
And, author Pat Mora, has a guide to planning Día celebrations.
A strong motivation for involvement by Latino authors and educators is the literacy gap among Latino children.
The literacy gap starts early. The more words an infant hears the greater their 3-year old vocabulary. Low income, language challenged children may hear thirty million fewer words than peers.
Only 59 percent of Latino children attend preschool, the lowest attendance of any ethnic group.
Latino students start behind. Latino 3-5 year olds recognize all letters in the alphabet at half the rate of black and white children. Only 3 percent can read written words in books, versus 8 percent for black and 16 percent of white children. Two thirds of white parents read to their children, versus a third of Latino parents.
If Latino children do read, they face barriers to recognizing themselves in books. The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center annually tracks the presence of multi-cultural characters in kids books. In 2014, they surveyed 3,500 of the estimated 5,000 children’s books published. Sixty-six were about Latinos.
Julie Diaz-Asper @juliediazasper