INTERVIEW WITH DR. CLAUDETTE S. McLINN
Dr. Claudette S. McLinn is Founder and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL). Since 2011, Dr. McLinn created the CSMCL Día Grant with an African American Focus, which is funded by CSMCL in partnership with the ALA/Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) and author Pat Mora, the founder of Children’s Day, Book Day/ El día de los niños, El día de los libros; often known as Día. Día is celebrated every year on April 30. Here, we will ask her a few questions about this grant.
1. What brought about this grant in 2011?
I became interested in Día because of the concept of family, children, and literacy. I love that families and children share literacy activities together in any library, school, or public setting. Thinking that it would be a good idea, I wanted to expand the concept to include African Americans. We wanted to create opportunities for learning and discovery. We wanted to attract the communities to their libraries and other spaces. Once the announcement was made about the Día Grant with an African American Focus, a partnership with ALSC and Pat Mora was organically formed.
2. What did you hope this grant would accomplish?
We knew that this grant would serve two purposes. First, the Día programs and activities would introduce children to information and knowledge as well as serve as a model for future Día programs. Second, the winning libraries will receive quality multicultural children’s books to add to their library collections. We understand the critical need for library funding to stock the
ir shelves with quality and relevant books.
CSMCL seeks to fulfill its mission through programs and the collecting of multicultural books and materials which affirm the lives of the multicultural community.
We want to enhance the children’s reading and learning experiences. The primary objectives include: a) foster an interest in multicultural children’s literature; b) to promote awareness of CSMCL; and c) to generate excitement in the study of multicultural literature.
CSMCL is an organization advocating for multicultural children’s literature. Our mission is to preserve the richness of many cultures in the field of children’s and young people’s literature. Further, our mission is to provide children, students, parents, library workers, literacy experts, and educators with access to multicultural children’s books with high literary and artistic standards.
3. Has that been accomplished?
Because we saw the need for CSMCL to support the Día program events, we have had some wonderful Día programs with an African American Focus. We have reached and supported wonderful Día programs with an African American Focus in the United States as well as Central America. One can go to our website, CSMCL.org, to garner a plethora of Día activities and view the events.
For example, our first CSMCL Día Grant with an African American Focus was awarded to Rudisill Regional Library in Tulsa, OK. The Día event theme was: “Día Day at Rudisill.” The youth librarian and grant writer, Cher Lyons, who coordinated the event, stated the following, “We had an awesome time at our Día Day! The children simply loved our storyteller. She is a local actress/singer who has been in a great deal of plays in and around Tulsa. The children and parents loved the stories, books, and craft activities. I am forwarding the pictures to you through the email.”
Another stand out program from the 2018 CSMCL Día Grant with an African American Focus was Boston Public Library, Connolly Branch, in collaboration with Egleston Square Main Street. Their program titled, “Neighborhood Literacy: Connecting Libraries, Hair Salons and Barbershops as Literacy and Confidence Centers,” by first making books available in local black-owned barbershops and hair salons and conducting read-aloud of books at prominent school bus stops. The second phase, Barbershop Hair Salon Storytime, took place in local barbershops and hair salons where special guests read from award-winning children’s books. At its conclusion, the children created their own identity crowns. Librarian Sujei Lugo wrote the grant and coordinated the event.
The latest La Puerta Abierta Learning Center School in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala was the winner of the 2021 Día Grant with an African American Focus sponsored by the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL). La Puerta Abierta Learning Center’s Día program theme was titled, “Cultivando Diversidad Inclusion (Growing Diversity, Harvesting Inclusion).” Stories and interactive activities were shared including a variety of picture books that represented African Americans and African Latinx diaspora including Letras al Carbón by Irene Vasco, Manuela Color Canela by Elena Dreser, We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands by Rafael López, and more. Students had the
opportunity to enjoy books with diverse representation of characters. One grade was chosen to create a big book that reflected the school’s theme, which was displayed in a prominent space in their local park. The program culminated with a puppet show by Titeres Raxwach, who presented Raam Ixiim (Heart of Corn), a traditional story of corn sisters of different colors (red, white, yellow, and blue) to a virtual audience. Amanda Flayer, Director of Professional Development, wrote the grant and coordinated the event.
4. What advice do you have for librarians wishing to celebrate Día with an African American Focus?
Apply for the 2024 grant. The invitation to apply for the grant is always on or about the first week in January. Complete the application, which is on our website: https://www.csmcl.org/dia-grant. Next year, the grant fund will increase to $700+. It will be a wonderful experience.
Ana-Elba Pavon is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.