Blogger Jeanette Larson

A Dia for Everyone

One of the major goals for El dí­a de los niños/El dí­a de los libros is to expand the celebration of languages and literacy to include the many languages and cultures of our diverse country and to highlight the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Recently I’ve noticed a number of efforts recently to to do just that and one comes with a little money!

The Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature will award $500 grants in selected multicultural children’s books for your library for 2013 Dí­a library programs with an African American focus. Email Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Executive Director,, for an application if you are interested.  The application deadline is March 15, 2013 so there is still plenty of time to apply. The winning recipient or recipients will be notified on or about March 30, 2013. The 2012 winner was Rudisill Regional Library, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, OK. Their program featured a storyteller and children made shakers to use as they sang along with the storyteller.

While there are many fine books by African American authors and illustrators to use in Dí­a programming, consider also including some with examples of African words for participants to enjoy and learn. We All Went On Safari by Laurie Krebs includes words for one to ten in both English and Swahili. WeAllWentOnSafari_HC1

Share a view of what life is like for a child in an African country with books like Bongani’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a South African City by Gisele Wulfsohn and talk about the similarities and differences in how we spend our days. A book like I Lost My Tooth In Africa by Penda Diakite gives readers a peek at live in Mali.

Older children can make and play Mancala, one of the oldest games in the world.Photo 3.3 Mancala What other games do African children play? The MamaLisa website provides words and a link to a video to help children learn a simple counting song in Swahili and call and response songs are popular and easy for children to learn.

One call and response song is Funga Alafiya, Ashay, Ashay, a welcome song that could start your program. Have a leader sing the call phrase and the group responds. Use a drum to beat the rhythm between verses. To make this a little more active, the group can make a circle hold hands as they chant. Move the circle a quarter turn during the drum interlude.

Call: Funga Alafia
Response: Ah-shay Ah-shay

If you share snacks at programs, includes some foods that come from Africa like yam or sweet potato chips or injera bread, available at Ethiopian restaurants.

If you have done Dí­a programming for African American culture and African languages, please share your ideas. And plan to add another language to your programming this year!


  1. Amy Seto Musser

    What a great article! As always, you make me daydream of planning a Dia event! I’m definitely putting your ideas in my pocket for future use.

    1. Jeanette Larson

      Thanks for the kind comment. I hope you will find even more inspiration from ideas shared by others and that you will soon be sharing your great programs!

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