El día de los niños / El día de los libros

Monday was El día de los niños / El día de los libros, a nationwide celebration that “emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.” This year we were so proud and happy when we heard that Sujei Lugo Vázquez, children’s librarian at the Connolly Branch of the Boston Public Library in Jamaica Plain and newly minted ALSC board member and 2018 Newbery Committee member, thank you very much, was a winner of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL) 2018 Día Grant with an African American Focus.

Micky and Sujei reading Hairs / Pelitos

The Connolly Branch is a short bus ride from the Horn Book office (and even closer to Roger’s house!) so he and I crashed Sujei’s Día afternoon event: “Neighborhood Literacy: Hair Salon and Barbershop Story Time.” Three barbers — Miguel "Micky" Zapata from Micky's Barber Shop and Erika Lawson and Darius Richardson from Lawson Barbershop, both in Egleston Square — were the guest readers for a group of engaged and amazed second graders from the John F. Kennedy Elementary School. Sujei asked the kids, “Who knows Spanish?” and about two-thirds of them raised their hands (“Ooh, me!” “I know a little bit!”). She handed the book Hairs / Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybanez, to Micky, who alternated reading the text in Spanish with Sujei reading the English.

Darius and Erika reading Crown

Next up was Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James. (And go, Sujei’s Newbery committee for naming Crown an Honor Book — see upcoming June/July Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.) Good-sport Darius, who was living the book, donned a salon cape while Erika, clipper in hand (but not plugged in), demoed some of the finer points from the text as the two of them read aloud. (“Wonderful demonstration!” commented one of the kids at the end.)

Then came a Q&A: “What do you think is the job of a barber?” And the answers were deep: “To make you feel good inside,” “To feel fresh inside and out,” “To help you feel proud of yourself, when you do something new, so you can be brave.” Darius offered: “It’s a barber’s job to know your style, to help find it for you if you don’t already know it yourself.” Erika made the point that the people in that room had different hair, and that “all hair types are beautiful” …“and unique!” piped in a kid. They concluded with a “tip” for the group: “Don’t walk out of the shop without tipping your barber.” The kids made their own identity crowns using craft materials from the library -- and each received a copy of Crown!

And did I say this was only the first day of a full week of activities and events Sujei had planned...? Tell us how you celebrated Día this year. #LibrariansWithSuperpowers

Children's room at the Connolly Branch of the Boston Public Library

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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