The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has announced the release of The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children white paper. This paper explores the critical role libraries play in helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society.

White Paper

The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children [PDF – Color – Designed, 2 MB]
The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children [PDF, 118 KB]
Importancia de la diversidad en programas y colecciones de materiales infantiles de las bibliotecas – Spanish Translation [PDF, 109 KB]
The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children – References and Resources [webpage] 

This white paper, written for the Association for Library Service to Children by Jamie Campbell Naidoo, PhD, was adopted by ALSC's Board of Directors on April 5, 2014.

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day)

Commonly known as Día, this initiative works to emphasize the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds and was referenced as a best practice in The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children white paper. Día was also recognized by the Library of Congress for assuring cultural relevance in literacy programs in the 2013 Literacy Awards Best Practices publication. More information about the Día initiative can be found at http://dia.ala.org.

Día programs at libraries

Chicago Public Library, Roosevelt Branch, Illinois
As the parents of three young children (4,5 and 8) it was important for us to find a program that could complement the literacy efforts our children were receiving at school. Our drive, however, was beyond educational: We had a deep desire to create lifelong readers. We believe that a deep love of reading will give our children something invaluable, allowing them to dream boundless dreams, create without limits, and explore with a deeper level of curiosity. In addition, we wanted their exploration to be culturally relevant, allowing them to foster connections that traditional education often overlooks. The Dia program...allowed us to do all of the above. We participated in every session, and were overjoyed with the results.

I truly believe that the impact of the program is immeasurable. We now have children who are not only deeply engaged in reading but also in love with their local library. "Let's go to the library!" gets the same reaction as "Let's get ice cream!"... their excitement and joy spills over. But, it's the quiet moments when we feel the true impacts of the program. When our eight year old, pulls a chain up to our front window, opens her book and is lost in the richness of the pages in front of her, or when our four year old crawls into bed with us, his favorite book in hand, asking us to read someone else's dreams to him before he has his own. Those are the moment that we sought without truly knowing it, and that is why the impact and the value of the Dia program is immeasurable. 

East Branch Irving Public Library, Texas
The East Branch of the Irving Public Library held 16 Dia Family Book Club programs that focused on bringing together families of children age 0 to 4 years old at the library.  Our Día de los Niños programs attracted new patrons to our library and in greater numbers than we typically see for programs within the school year. Participants enjoyed the home-like feel of our library and staff, the book and bag giveaways, the socialization, the celebration of reading, and the accompanying fingerplays and crafts which expanded the programs.

The parents consistently stated appreciation for the bilingual, Spanish/English, format of storytime. Through our storytime programs many of the kids learned numbers, colors and animals in English and Spanish. Older children and families also attended our larger book club programs and enjoyed the additional cultural activities; Ballet Folklorico, American Indian dancing and music, the bilingual play, Pinnochia, and of course the food reflecting the cultures! We currently observe many patrons visiting the library with their "Books Matter at Your Library" book bags. On numerous evaluations parent's expressed enthusiasm about the programs and their child's exposure to reading and culture.

Joliet Public Library, Illinois
I am a grandmother of seven. Over the years my grandkids and I have participated in many library programs. Most recently, my grand-daughter Ulianna and I attended the Family Readers Bilingual Book Club. The program was amazing! As a parent and grandparent of bilingual children, I especially feel that this program was a plus for both the library and the community.

My grandchild learned to read in both English and Spanish. Through the program she not only received bilingual books, but she also shared and learned traditional Hispanic customs. Even I, the grandma, picked up the Spanish language bit by bit. I would love to see this program continue. It is so important in this day and age and in our community in particular to have access to bilingual and multicultural programs. 

Lancaster Public Library, Pennsylvania
Lancaster Public Library held three Día Family Book Club programs for over 50 community members.  Their programs focused on bringing together families of children age 5-8 years old and throughout the series of book clubs these families took home over 300 books to read and share to help further develop their child’s literacy skills together.

Our "Cocinas y Culturas" book clubs were very well received, as was evident through the positive feedback on the surveys we gave out.  It was truly touching to involve so many multicultural, multilingual, immigrant and refugee members of our community and see the impact it had on the children and families who attended.  We gained new library users and were able to connect with a population who had been looking for exactly this kind of program - and found it at the library!  Although the food was an added bonus, the stories and the people were the most important part of the series. We have had many requests and questions about having more events, and we are actively looking for a way to fund a similar monthly program.

The Urbana Free Library, Illinois
Our library had just started working with the Dual Language (English/Spanish) programs at two of our local elementary schools. This grant gave us the opportunity to solidify that relationship by hosting a series of duel language family book clubs for nearly 200 attendees.  Our library now knows the Dual Language coordinators and teachers and best of all the families whose children are enrolled in the Dual Language programs. Working in coordination with the Urbana School District we were able to offer a library card fee waiver for the out-of-district families for the summer. This could only be done because they were participating in this special literacy program.

Each book club started with our facilitator, Vivian, pushing her pretend Spanish button on her head. After that everything she said was in Spanish, the children could answer her questions in English, but she continued in Spanish. A fun vocabulary lesson preceded an entertaining story time punctuated by lots of questions from the children.  After the story the children joined their families for a craft that was story related and stuck with the bi-lingual theme. It was heartwarming to see whole families crafting together during the program.

The program couldn’t have gone any better; the goals we set up at the start of the program were exceeded. We  are now making changes in our department that are in direct relation to a better awareness of these Dual Language families, such as; when we put out books for display during a program, we now put out books in other languages other than English. We are fortunate to have a large foreign language section in our children’s department, so this is easy to do – we had just never thought of it before!