The Year of the Horse

Día is not only a celebration of children and books, but a commitment to work daily towards connecting families and children to diverse books, cultures and languages. It may seem like quite the challenge at times to integrate diversity into your library everyday, but there are plenty of uncomplicated routes to daily diversity! If you take a moment to contemplate the many holidays and traditions celebrated throughout the world you will begin to see a wealth of opportunity. Everybody loves a party, so why not highlight various cultures through their respective festivities? It is a fun way to embrace the Día initiative and encourage an awareness of various cultures in your community.  The Year of the Horse could be a great first step towards a year of multicultural observance in 2014!

On the Western calendar, the start of the new year falls on January 31st, 2014 and is The Year of the Horse. Unlike a Western New Year that merely lasts one day, The Chinese New Year is a fifteen day long event that begins with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon. It is a time for new beginnings and giving thanks with family and friends.  Each day of the holiday is marked by a different activity.

Chinese New Year is an excellent holiday to showcase at your library. You could plan a special program for families to create Chinese New Year crafts together and sample special foods or hold a Year of the Horse storytime sharing not only Chinese New Year stories but horse stories. Don’t have the time or resources to plan a full-blown program? No problem! You can easily passively engage families with interesting displays of materials on Chinese New Year, China and even Asian-American written stories and memoirs. Put out a word search or activity sheet for families to take home with them, introducing them to Chinese New Year customs and foods.

 For the toddlers and preschoolers, I recommend the adorable and vibrantly illustrated My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz (Henry Holt, 2004).  For a more in-depth look at the celebration, check out Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and The Children’s Museum of Boston (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002). This book for grade-school aged children features not only Chinese New Year but four other important Chinese holidays complete with many recipes and great crafts for parent and child to create together. A long-time favorite of mine, the Caldecott-award winning Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young (Philomel, 1989), would be another delightful book choice.

What other celebrations do you think would be perfect for inviting cultural diversity into your library this year?

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Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library in Grafton, OH and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at nicolemartin@oplin.org.

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