October 31, 2012

Interview With 2012 Mora Award Winner, Lynden Public Library

For the second year, I’m honored to interview the winner of the Estela and Raúl Mora Award on my blog. Congratulations, Tina Bixby and Amelia Martinez, to you and the Lynden Public Library, a branch library of the Whatcom County Library System, WA. I was inspired by every application I read, but I don’t select the winner nor the Honor Awards started this year. Libraries all over the country are curious to know what you did that prompted the REFORMA Mora Award Committee to select your library as the 2012 winner. Deep thanks for designing an April Día celebration that teaches us all that by involving community members in planning the event, together you created a memorable community celebration.

Tell us a bit about yourselves and your library.

Tina: I am from Washington State and have been a librarian for 27 years, mostly working as a children’s librarian. The Lynden Library, where I currently work, is located in northwest Washington State, very near the Canadian border, in a beautiful agricultural area. The Lynden Library is the largest branch in the Whatcom County Library System, serving a community of 11,951, with an almost 9% Latino population.

Amelia: I was born in Mexico and came to U.S. in 1996. I started working for WCLS in June, 2010 as a Public Service Assistant for the Lynden Library. I love helping and working with families and children! I also like learning and sharing new things and participate in events that bring joy to people.

L to R: Alma Hernandez, Amelia Martinez, Tina Bixby, Sandra Ramirez, Brenda Ramirezion

1. How did you first become interested in Día and how long ago was that?

Tina: Our first Día celebration began 5 years ago as a monthly children's program. Our system Children’s Services Department arranged for a local Latino elementary school secretary to volunteer to read a couple of books and do a traditional Mexican craft. The dozen, almost entirely Anglo participants enjoyed the program. The following year was much the same. The summer before our third Día, the Lynden Library hired Amelia Martinez, a Spanish speaking Public Service Assistant. Her presence, language skills and community connections, as well as library outreach to the Migrant Head Start program made a big difference. The first time I met Amelia, I knew that we had to hire her!

Amelia: It was in the summer of 2010. I was working for Washington State Migrant Council and Tina worked for the Library. She was coming to do “story time” at the Head Start. One day, she asked me what kind of children’s celebrations we had in México, we talked about “Día del Niño,” and she told me about her idea. I got very excited and volunteered to help. This is a very special celebration in Mexico, especially in schools. I remember that it didn’t matter if we were poor or rich or if had good grades or not; that day each teacher created a wonderful, fun day for all the students. We had food, games, piñatas, candies, crafts, music, talent shows, plays, and time to share with the whole school, older siblings, friends, etc. It is a very nice memory of my childhood, and it was all about learning.

2. When did you begin to plan your 2012 celebration? Did you work with a team and, if so, who created the team? Was having a team helpful? Challenging?

Tina: Amelia was really the heart of our Día celebration. Familiar with Latino parties, she knew exactly what was needed to attract the Latino crowd that we were hoping to draw in and make the children feel very special. A cake and a piñata were essential! I worked more on the fundraising, shopping and administration side of the planning.

Amelia: We started planning it in September 2011. We were working on another program “Family Literacy Fiestas,” and we talked to the participants about our next program (Día). They all got very interested and excited talking about their own experiences. We asked them if they would like to participate and most of them said, “YES.” We have a very nice group of Latino high school students who come to help us at different events, so they came too. And when the time got closer, we started inviting other patrons, and most of them wanted to help! Having a team was WONDERFUL!

During the planning, it was a little bit challenging because of our budget, and because we were sometimes planning this during working hours. All our co-workers were great, asking how things were going, covering desk time when we needed to make phone calls or talk to volunteers, etc.

This was the other challenge; we couldn’t have all the volunteers present in our planning meetings – some were students, mothers, workers, childcare providers, etc. Everybody had different schedules, so we had to divide the work into sections – set up, crafts, learning activities, games and entertainment, kitchen, etc.

At the end, it was a lot easier than we expected, because everybody knew what they were doing; they met each other and worked as a team instantly. We all had our hearts in the event. We were happy, even when the piñata rope kept breaking because it was overloaded with candies. All dads helped.

It was WONDERFUL having everybody helping, feeling that this was their event!

3. What do you think made your 2012 celebration special?

Tina: The community involvement – Día was a celebration created by the Latino community to celebrate children and books.

Amelia: Everything, the sponsors, the Library, the volunteers, the participants, the “purpose.”

4. How do you and your library feel about winning the Mora Award?

Tina: Elated! We never thought we would win the award, but we knew we had to share our success story with REFORMA and Pat Mora.

Amelia: We are all surprised and excited. It is a wonderful and encouraging feeling to continue programs like this one—connecting with people.

5. What did you learn from your celebration this year?

Tina: The amazing things that can happen when you move away from “doing for others” into developing two-way relationships. We have learned to look to the strengths and resources in the Lynden Latino community to create services, programs and library collections that support diversity and families.

Amelia: The importance of “sharing the opportunity of giving” and “connecting with others no matter our racial or social status”. A lot of families gave us different ideas for next year, and they would like to help as well. Children were excited to see their parents interacting with other people they barely met and sharing something good about their culture.

6. What three key pieces of advice would you give to those ready to plan their first Día celebration in spring 2013? Advice to those who have celebrated before?

Tina: Be flexible, allow the program to evolve, nurture relationships

Amelia: To do it from your heart.

To listen to others’ suggestions.

Allow people to help.

7. Why are Día and sharing bookjoy important to you?

Tina: Día is all about books, children and fostering literacy – my passions in life. When children and families really know the joy of sharing books, I know that those children will succeed in life. At our Family Fiesta Literacy program in the library last week, I was playing and reading with the kids while Amelia instructed the adults. I overheard one little boy say to another “Este lugar es muy divertido, no? Muy cool, no?” At the end of a very long day of work, it was exactly what I needed to hear – they filled my day with joy! Bookjoy!

Amelia: Because it connects joy with reading and learning. We would like all families to find reading and learning as positive and happy experiences.

October 25, 2012

Creativity Salon: an Interview with Illustrator David Gardner

Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, David! I love the visuals on your site! Although we never get to visit enough in person, I’m so pleased that you and I both live in Santa Fe.

David, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Thanks so much, Pat. Let's see. . . I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I got my Film degree from Northwestern near Chicago, was a touring puppeteer based in Atlanta, a production assistant on the old TV show Solid Gold in L.A. and an artist for Walt Disney Studios there, too, on movies like Beauty and the Beast. I still do animation, in addition to illustrating children's books. The Harvey Milk Story  was my first picture book, and I got hooked.

I’m always curious about when visual artists began their art. Did you draw as a child? If yes, what was your family’s and teachers’ reactions to your art work?

One of my earliest memories is of my parents taking my three sisters and me to the theater to see Disney’s The Sword and the Stone, the first movie I sat still for instead of chasing my little sister up and down the aisle. I got kind of obsessed by that magic -- moving paintings! -- and my mom and my pre-school teacher were happy to oblige. Jumbo Crayolas and a coloring book were my "gateway drug." From there, I went on to drawing my own pictures, copying cartoon characters, mostly. My parents and teachers encouraged me, thank goodness. They made it possible for me to see the value in being creative. In first grade, Mrs. Hester thumbtacked my drawings on the corkboard border all around the classroom -- so of course I kept on drawing!

Tell us about your new book, Sarah Gives Thanks. How did the project evolve, what particular challenges did you face, and how did you solve them?

Sarah Josepha Hale was this powerhouse I'd never even heard of, a young widow, a successful poet, novelist, editor of writers like her friends Poe and Emerson, raising five kids on her own. Mike Allegra's manuscript moved me from the first paragraph.

One challenge was to capture her strong personality, dainty and forceful all at once. I kept her moving as much as possible, energetic, almost athletic, while wearing some bit of lace or a flowery shawl. Showing the passage of time was another challenge. I relied on costumes, sets, showing Sarah aging from eight to eighty, and showing her children growing up alongside her. Research was probably the biggest challenge. Books from our local library were essential, as always, for clothing history, architecture, hairstyles. I have stacks of printouts of details I found online, from Boston Harbor, 1832, to the size of a woman's bustle in 1863. I had to get every detail just right -- I owe that to the kids (and there are teams of sharp-eyed librarians out there, I'm told!).

Published by Albert Whitman, 2012

On your web site, Flying Dog Studio, you have the words illustration, animation and fine art? Do you enjoy creating each of these equally? How is each process different for you?

I do enjoy all three, for different reasons. With fine art, I can get lost easily, in the flow. It's relaxing to paint something that's right in front of me, and it informs everything else I do. Animation and illustration meant to so much me as a kid, I love carrying that forward. Reaching a broad audience is gratifying, too. But unlike fine art, I have to dive into my imagination while keeping someone else's story and production or printing guidelines in mind. It's a fun puzzle. Ultimately, all three forms are about storytelling for me, telling a story with pictures.

How do you like to relax, David?

Sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee and a good book, the clouds skipping over the mountains. Heaven! And curling up with my partner and catching up on John Adams and Downton Abbey. These amazing, perfect blends of history and melodrama, they just whisk me out of my day for a while. Oh, and visiting with you is very relaxing, Pat!

October 15, 2012

Announcement of the 2012 Mora Award Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the 2012 Estela & Raúl Mora Award: Lynden Public Library, Whatcom County Library System, Lynden WA!

For the first time, we are also awarding three Mora Honor Awards:
DC Public Library/Mount Pleasant, DC., King County Library, WA; and Sacramento Public Library, CA. Congratulations to these libraries and to all who submitted award applications. It’s exciting to see how these awards are growing and how the Día work is deepening to involve community members as literacy leaders.

I wish to thank the 2012 REFORMA Mora Award Committee for its careful deliberations. The Chair was Beatriz Pascual Wallace,Seattle Public Library; members included Heidi K. Becker, Denver Public Library; Hope Crandall (formerly school librarian at Washington Elementary, WA); David Suárez, Richland County Public Library and Lupita Vega, Santa Ana Public Library.

Join us for future posts about these awards, including an interview with Tina Bixby, Children's Librarian for the Lynden Public Library.

Read REFORMA's press release in English and Spanish.

October 13, 2012

Celebrating Paper Tigers 10th Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to PaperTigers! Congratulations on their vision and the many accomplishments over the past ten years.

Artist John Parra designed this anniversary poster.

Read editor's Marjorie Coughlan’s thoughts about PaperTigers now and hopes for the future.

Former PaperTigers Managing Editor, Aline Pereira, has written an article about her long involvement with the website and othr resources.

October 5, 2012

Recommendations for Hispanic Heritage Month

I was born wealthy. I had the good fortune to grow up in a loving, bilingual home in El Paso, Texas. All my grandparents spoke only Spanish. Mom and Dad were bilingual, though, so I always spoke both English and Spanish. Since Mom was a reader, I also had the good fortune to grow up with books in our home, and I enjoyed teachers who read to us at school, visits to the library, the fun of Summer Reading Clubs. Too often today, the word “wealthy” is reduced to money. Well, I was and am rich in family, books, and languages. How I wish I were tri-lingual!

Since sharing is often more fun than having, I like to share bookjoy, la alegría en los libros. I founded Día, El dia de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day, as one way for all of us to link all children to books, languages and cultures day by day, día por día. Día celebrations are held throughout the country around April 30th and are fun to plan at home, school, and libraries. I wrote Book Fiesta to show the fun of reading by ourselves, with our family, to our pets and reading everywhere—even in a hot air balloon and on an elephant.


I not only love words and languages, I love diversity: the wonder of an array of flowers, birds, and humans, families. I’ll never understand why some are valued more than others. The Hispanic or Latino national community is highly diverse. Some are new arrivals; some families that have lived on the U.S. landscape for generations. Some have ancestors from countries such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Peru. Some are dark; some fair. Some Catholic; some Protestant or Jewish. Some speak only Spanish, some only English, some are bilingual.

I was a children’s book author before I noticed: hey, none of the books I read and loved had any characters who looked like me or my family, who spoke Spanish and enjoyed saying both candy and dulces. How children and the young at heart enjoy learning words in other languages! Luckily, many Latino authors are now writing wonderful books for us all. Here are ten of my favorites:


Thanks to PBS Parents!