August 26, 2010

Landscape Inspires Color and More

What an amazing sight this week: the full moon. Like gazing at the wide Southwest desert landscape, the full moon reminds me how small we humans and our endless squabbles are on this earth.

My web team and I have been making some changes to the look of this blog lately. I chose some colors that say Santa Fe to me: clay shade of adobe, the word meaning brick in Arabic, turquoise often mined in New Mexico, popular in jewelry here, and hints of green, seldom the dominant color in the desert.

Each month, under the cover of ZING!, my new book on creativity, I’ll post a quote from the book. I certainly had some wonderful teachers in my home city of El Paso. Did you also have some memorable educators? I went to Catholic schools from kindergarten until I graduated from high school. In those days, the Sisters of Loretto still wore long, black habits. I remember my kindergarten teacher, Sister Margaret Ann who loved licorice as do I. To discourage her from eating it, Sister’s mother told her that it was made by cooking all kinds of candies together into a black goo. Licorice: yum! Sweet memories: yum.

August 19, 2010

Pat Talks about Bilingual and Multicultural Publishing

In 2009, Pat was interviewed for a planned update of the Texas Library Association (TLA) Día site. As part of the interview, Pat was asked the question: What is your hope for the growth of bilingual and multicultural books for children and teens?

"I’m a bit uncomfortable with the word “multicultural” which is usually used to mean work by non-Anglo authors. All books are cultural in that they are written by a particular person who is part of a culture, a way of seeing the world. I’ve been having the same problem with the word “mainstream.” What does that really mean? Given our national plurality, the true mainstream is diverse. So what are most of the books published and reviewed and honored? A protected stream? To change metaphors, America’s authentic chorus is diverse. Why all those voices are not fairly represented in the award system and published is a fascinating question.

I can feel mighty discouraged when I read the statistics that document the growth of diversity in the student population and the lack of growth in the diversity of the authors who are published for children and young adults. I’ve written about this topic for years and stressed the importance of diversifying the editorial and marketing staffs, particularly at major publishing houses, and the need for teachers and librarians to be vocal and effective advocates for the books their students deserve, books that reflect the students’ lives and stories. Though educators say they like and need bilingual books, publishers often say that the books don’t really sell. I begin with two assumptions. Publishing is a business. If an editor publishes books that don’t sell, that editor is in trouble. Since most people are people of good will, I’ve often suggested that conference panels with editors and librarians/teachers exploring this challenge could be helpful.

In the last year, I’ve become more aware that bilingual books can be intimidating to monolingual librarians and teachers. An interesting challenge for TLA, given its commitment to Día and family literacy, is how to assist librarians to develop strategies for using bilingual books with all students."

Read the full interview about Día, programming for teens, and reading here.

August 12, 2010

This Month's Día Dynamo!

This month Pat honors librarian Elva Garza for her faithful support of Día since its beginnings. Elva has advocated for Día on local, state and national levels, has planned celebrations, and has participated in conference programs that educate others and extend Día's reach.

1. Tell us about your path to librarianship and your work in libraries.

"I had never thought about being a librarian until I got a job my sophomore year of college as a work-study student in the reference department at Southwest Texas State University. I was amazed at how the librarians could find the answer to any questions that came across the reference desk and I wanted to be able to do that. I went off to library school at the University of North Texas with every intention of being an academic librarian but got my first job working for San Antonio Public as a reference librarian. After 5 years, I came to work for the Austin Public Library as a Branch Manager and I am currently working as a Regional Branch Manager overseeing five branches."

"In Austin, I have always worked in communities where visiting a library for enjoyment is not necessarily something families do, so it has been my job and the staff I work with to introduce families to what libraries have to offer them. Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros celebration has been one of the programs we have used to do this."

2. What to you is the biggest reward of being involved with Día?
"I think my biggest reward from being involved with Día has been the friendships and partnerships that I have seen develop over the years. These partnerships have brought new learning opportunities for the families we serve all year round. One of these programs has been the Family Learning Nights held in schools throughout Austin. Several of our Día partners get together to provide literacy based activities for families learning math, reading, or science skills. Families receive free books along with library cards."

3. What ideas do you have for Día 2011 and what are your hopes for the 15th Anniversary celebration?
"From [a small event in a church] we have grown to a citywide event where we had as many as 6,000 attend one year. We are just beginning the planning for this year’s Día celebration. We are talking about a month long celebration with events going on in our schools and libraries."

4. What are you reading now?
"I am currently reading The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. I have a ten-year-old buddy and this was his pick. He is a reluctant reader so when ever he asks me to read something with him I jump up and read."

5. What is your favorite example of Bookjoy either as a child or as adult?
"I was never a big reader as a kid; it was not until in college when I first discovered books written by Latino authors that I felt an excitement in reading. When I first read books by Tomás Rivera, Rudolfo Anaya, and Gabriel García Márquez, I was recognizing my family’s stories. These were the stories I heard from my grandfather and father -- the stories of the curandera, of living in a migrant camp and working in the fields, of brothers going off to war."

August 5, 2010

Children as Creators

What are you reading these days? I’ve been savoring some mighty special books made for me by the third graders at Hoffer Elementary School in Banning, California. Last March, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at the Charlotte S. Huck Literature Festival in Redlands. It felt grand to leave cold Santa Fe and thaw out in sunny California. The organizing committee was warm and welcoming, my fellow speakers interesting and informative, and my sweet “angel” for the weekend, student Sarah Fiske-Phillips cheerfully escorted me to each event.

A highlight of my visit was meeting with those third graders though. Not only were they attentive and enthusiastic, they brought me gifts! In honor of my first children’s book, A Birthday Basket for Tía, they presented me with a large book they’d made titled, “An Author Basket for Pat Mora.” How I enjoy turning the pages and seeing the writing, art work and photos the students created after reading some of my books.

These talented students also made character sketch posters, a book of “thanks” inspired by Gracias~Thanks that includes statements and drawings, and a book about why libraries are important inspired by Tomás and the Library Lady. The children also presented me with a basket that day that included chocolates because I’d written Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!, a lovely tea towel on which a mom had cross-stitched lovely poinsettias because I’d written The Gift of the Poinsettia: El regalo de la flor de nochebuena, and, one of my weaknesses pan dulce, Mexican sweet bread, made by a mom that morning because I’d written, The Bakery Lady/La señora de la panadería.

The children and teachers had decorated the room with their work including a bulletin board of “scary masks” inspired by reading Abuelos. The children said I could use the masks on “any kids you might know.” You can imagine how overwhelmed I felt at all the hard work that had been done by the students and their two wonderful teachers. I was also so impressed at the critical thinking the teachers had prompted in their students.

After their presentation, I asked the children how they thought I felt.

“Amazed?” they asked.


I laughed and said, “Teary,” which is the way I’ve felt as I typed this memory. I also received illustrated thank-you notes after our time together. As I say in my new book, Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students, teachers are treasures. My deep gracias~thanks to Ms.Gretchen Pelle and Ms. Kelly Mineo for reminding me how outstanding teachers enrich the lives of their students and for showering me with gifts and happy memories.