Many of us take libraries for granted. So much so, that we forget the important role of libraries and the librarians who provide resources to everyone. But, not everyone has access to the treasures libraries have to offer.
In September, I attended the first meeting of the Fresno area chapter of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish speaking populations. At the meeting, a wonderful picture book was shared –
The Storyteller’s Candle – La Velita de los Cuentos
by Lucia Gonzalez (author) and Lulu Delacre (illustrator)
Picture Book ages 4-8
Lee and Low 2012
The Storyteller’s Candle tells the story of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian at the New York Public Library. Pura Belpré understood the difficulties faced by recent immigrants from Puerto Rico. She reached out to the children by visiting their classrooms and inviting them to come to the library. Told through the perspective of Puerto Rican cousins, Hildamar and Santiago, the story shows how Pura Belpré welcomed the immigrant community and made sure that they understood that libraries are for everyone, including non-English speakers. She encouraged the children’s parents and neighbors to visit the library where the entire community became involved in a celebration for the Festival of the Three Kings.
Fittingly, The Storyteller’s Candle is written in both Spanish and English. The book includes information about the influx of Puerto Ricans to New York during the depression who left their island home to seek jobs. It also elaborates on the life of Pura Belpré who was not only a librarian but a storyteller, puppeteer, author, and advocate for the Spanish speaking community of New York City. She continues to be an inspiration for children’s librarians who endeavor to encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning in all children.
In 1996, the American Library Association established an award named after Pura Belpré. It is presented each year to a Latinx author and an illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA. The Storyteller’s Candle received Pura Belpré Honor Awards for both the author and illustrator.
In addition to the librarians, teachers, booksellers, and others people in services to Spanish speakers at the REFORMA meeting, was author and poet Margarita Engle, the recipient of the 2016 Pura Belpré Author Award for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir (Atheneum Books)
In her memoir, Margarita shares the story of her youth growing up in Los Angeles and Cuba during the era of cold war hostilities between the United States and Cuba. Her beautiful text, written in free verse, conveys the difficulties of separated families, the immigrant experience, and her hope for the future.
Rafael Lopez, illustrator of Drum Dream Girl written by Margarita Engle, was awarded the 2016 Pura
Belpré Award for illustration. You can read my review of this beautiful picture book here. Margarita is excited that the book is now available in a Spanish edition.
It seems my life is coming full circle. I began my career as a children’s librarian for the Santa Barbara Library system. When I married and moved to California’s Central Valley, I went back to school for my teaching credentials and worked as a reading specialist and kindergarten teacher because, as a mother of four, I wanted to be on my children’s schedule. The desire to share stories and to help children become life long readers and learners is at the heart of what I do.
I no longer have a class of my own Instead, I substitute for my teacher friends when they need me. I have found myself drawn back into the library world in a different way. I want to help bring books to children and families that do not have easy access to them. I have found wonderful opportunities to do just that.
The Central Valley is fortunate to be home to a dedicated teacher, Robert Isquierdo, Jr.
Robert was raised in the small, rural farming community of London in Tulare County. He taught in both Northern and Southern Californian schools where he saw what a difference having resources makes to children. He dreamed of bringing a library to the town’s 2,134 residents. Over 500 people caught his vision and have worked hard to raise money and collect books. The dream is about to become a reality since the Library for London will be celebrating its grand opening on October 15, 2016. If you listen to his interview on Valley Public Radio, you can’t help but get excited about this library.
Before and after
I am also excited about another library opportunity. I traveled twice this year to Nicaragua and worked alongside Elianor Navarette, an amazing teacher who runs the education site for Students International. She serves children who are the poorest of the poor but desire to learn.
The students carry their own chairs to the education site.
Elianor expressed her dream of having a library which I am excited to be helping to create. The goal is to have a section in the new community center where the children can come to read and learn. We are seeking books in Spanish for children in grades kindergarten through sixth.
Elianor is thrilled to have these books in Spanish written by Pura Belpre Award winning author, Alma Flor Ada. (Thanks to Margarita and Alma Flor!)
I’d love to hear your thoughts about libraries. Do you still use their services?
This post is linked to #diversekidlit which is where a community of bloggers share and promote books featuring diverse characters.
Tina Cho says
I enjoyed learning about Pura Belpre and your work with libraries! I miss my U.S. library.
Claire Annette Noland says
Hi Tina, I’ve enjoyed learning more about Pura Belpre and the award established in her honor.
Are there public libraries in Korea?
Joan Schoettler says
I had no idea about the new library in London. Thank you for sharing so many fine details about small towns and Reforma.
Claire Annette Noland says
It has been wonderful to see how one man can make a big difference in a community.