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April 18, 2024

Día: A Celebration of Literacy

Dia: A Literacy Celebration

By Karen N., Youth Services Librarian

What is your earliest memory of being read to? 

I can remember right around the start of kindergarten, my mom began reading the Little House on the Prairie series to me. Laying back on my parents’ bed, book held above our heads (which had to be rough on her arms), Mom introduced me to the pioneer world of Laura Ingalls and her family, while I listened intently and occasionally pointed out the words I knew along the way – “the,” “she,” “it,” etc.  

I can’t remember earlier than that, though an old baby book records that at the age of three, my favorite story was a Little Golden Book, “Polite Elephant” (though it came through my still-developing speech as “poh-ite” elephant). And photo evidence suggests that flipping through books to look at pictures was an activity that baby me enjoyed.

Baby Reading    Baby flipping through books

But though I remember few specifics about being read to in my first five years, I am confident that it was something that happened on a regular basis. Why? Because I entered school as a capable pre-reader who very quickly developed into a voracious actual reader. 

Most of us understand on some level that it is important to read to the young children in our lives. Yet I think we underestimate just how important that early exposure is, while also overestimating how difficult it is to effectively set our kids up for success. Library storytimes and similar programs are often structured around just five common practices:

Reading: This isn’t just about children understanding that the words we say out loud when we look at a book are represented by the “swiggles” on the page – being read to also models how pages are turned from left to right, provides practice for sequencing events, and lets kids know that books can be entertaining. 

Singing: If kids are going to learn that letters represent sounds, it’s also important that they can recognize the sounds within words. Words in children’s songs are usually said slower and more stretched out than we would speak them, making it easier to hear those sounds. 

Talking: The more a child is spoken to, the more words they’ll learn. And when they have a larger vocabulary, they will have an easier time recognizing the written words they’ll be trying to decode when they start reading. 

Writing: Starting with scribbles, drawings, and early attempts at letters, kids learn that the marks they make on paper can communicate meaning. When they can tell their own stories, they become more invested in the stories of others, too. 

Playing: Pretend play is full of symbolism – if a child can understand that a stick can stand in place of a real sword, then they can also understand that the experiences of a main character can represent experiences in their own life.  

Of course, families are only at the library occasionally – imagine just how much more of an effect there is when these practices are included in a child’s everyday life at home! 

Mexican-American author Pat Mora is another strong believer in the power that families have to set their children up for life-long reading success. It is that belief, as well as some cultural connections, that created a desire for a celebration of children, literacy, and bilingualism:

Pat Mora

Pat Mora

“In 1996, I learned about the Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30th as El día del niño, the day of the child. I thought, ‘We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We need kids’ day too, but I want to connect all children with bookjoy, the pleasure of reading.’” (source: https://www.patmora.com/whats-dia/) 

Mora’s inspiration would go on to become Día. Día (the Spanish word for “day”) is a combination of Children’s Day and Day of the Book, but it is also a recognition that laying the groundwork for future readers happens every day of their young lives. 

Libraries across the country celebrate Día, and this year, that includes HEPL! We invite all children ages 4-7 and their families to a special event on April 27th. We will have stories, plenty of songs, fun book-related crafts, and maybe even a game or two!  

Whether or not you come to our Día party, I hope you remember to celebrate reading with your children every day! 


Reading programs at HEPL

2024 Día reading lists from the Association of Library Services to Children 

Miss Karen’s favorite children’s music: 

 Jim Gill

Raffi  Muevete Songs