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Literacy Celebration day to focus on kids – and books

April 14, 2011


This word isn’t in the dictionary, but it means the pleasure of curling up in a comfortable chair with a good book, with time to read, and no one to interrupt you.

“Bookjoy,” a term coined by New Mexico author Pat Mora, will be present in great amounts on April 30, when Arizona State University hosts its first Día de los Niños/Día de Los Libros Literacy Celebration for students from across Arizona.

The “day of children/day of books” will take place from 8 a.m. to noon at ASU’s Tempe campus, in Coor Hall and Neeb Hall. “A variety of reading/writing activities are planned for our student guests, such as book making, bookmark making, poetry writing, oral storytelling workshops and much more,” said Tracey Flores, a teacher consultant with ASU’s Central Arizona Writing Project, sponsor of the event.

Students ranging from elementary to high school are invited “to partake in a variety of multicultural and multilingual literacy-based reading and writing activities, while enjoying stories from their favorite local and national authors,” Flores said.

Featured speakers will be Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of “Ninth Ward,” and bilingual story teller Joe Hayes, of Santa Fe, N.M., who will share stories from Anglo, Native American and Hispanic traditions of the Southwest.

“Ninth Ward” is the story of 12-year-old Lanesha and her grandmother who survive Hurricane Katrina through the shared strength of family and community. Participants will receive copies of the book from Little, Brown and Company and ASU English Education.

Also meeting with young readers will be local authors Conrad Storad, Jon Lewis, Janette Rallison, Angela Morrison, Tom Leveen, Aprilynne Pike, Kaleb Nation and Bill Konigsberg.

Professors and deans from ASU will lead sessions, including Neal Lester, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and faculty members Alleen Nilsen, Don Nilsen, and James Blasingame.

Local merchants, including Shamrock Farms, Bashas’ and Dunkin’ Donuts, are contributing food, and the Assistance League of Phoenix and azTeen will contribute books and magazines for the participants.

Día de los Niños/Dia de Los Libros, which was started 15 years ago by Mora, now is held at schools, libraries and parks across the country each year.

Flores and ASU professor of English James Blasingame decided to bring the event to ASU during a meeting of the National Teachers of English last November in Florida.

“We wanted to create an event that would honor the values, goals and principles of Día while ensuring access to all students,” Flores said. “We hope that with each year, the celebration will grow and flourish. We also hope to provide a space to celebrate all students their cultures, languages and traditions.”

The seed for Día was planted in 1996 when Mora was interviewed for a public radio program at the University of Arizona. “I learned about the annual Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30 as El día del niño, the Day of the Child. This Mexican tradition evolved from the first World Conference for the Well-being of Children, held in Geneva, Switzerland in August 1925. Various countries chose dates for celebrating children and childhood and passed the Geneva Declaration Protecting Children,” said Mora.

“As a mom, I knew that children often ask, ‘Why do we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and not Children’s Day?’ As a reader, I wanted (and want) to foster ‘bookjoy.’ Ah, ha, I thought. What if we link a celebration of children with literacy, an issue central to the well-being of children?”

With support from various individuals and organizations, plans were made and the first Día was held in 1997 in Santa Fe, Tucson, El Paso and Austin.

The goals, for both celebration day and every day, Flores said, are to honor children and childhood; promote literacy; link all children to books, languages and cultures; honor home languages and cultures, thus promoting bilingual and multilingual literacy in this multicultural nation, and global understanding through reading; involve parents as valued members of the literacy team; and to promote library collection development that reflects our plurality.

When the students arrive at ASU on April 30, they will be placed in grade-level-appropriate reading/writing activities led by ASU’s faculty and staff. Día de los Niños/Día de Los Libros is free.

For more information contact Tina Norgren, (480) 965-3224, or