Pat Mora is a poet and author as well as a children's literacy advocate. In this exclusive video interview with Reading Rockets, Pat Mora discusses her bilingual childhood and her literacy cause.
Additional video conversations with Pat Mora, some in Spanish and meant especially for Spanish-speaking parents, are available on our sister website Colorín Colorado. You'll also find interviews with other notable Hispanic authors on the site.
Pat Mora is a mother, author, poet, and tireless literacy advocate. Her writings range from lyrical picture books to adult prose. Her most common themes are family, Mexican-American culture, and the desert. Since growing up along the border as a second-generation Mexican American, Mora has become a valuable translator between Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences. One day she may address a room full of teachers and librarians about outreach to parents. The next day she may speak to parents in Spanish about ways they can better partner with their children's school. Mora's charming picture books also reach out across cultures. They are available in English and Spanish, but are often bilingual.
Since 1997 Pat Mora has dedicated herself to promoting the Hispanic and multicultural literacy day, El día de los niños/El día de los libros – or Children's Day/Book Day. Teachers, librarians, parents, and children celebrate April 30 every year with readings, activities, and displays. To learn more about how you can participate, visit the American Library Association or the Texas State Library.
Exploring bicultural upbringing
During the turbulent Mexican Revolution of the early 20th Century, Pat Mora's grandparents traveled north in search of a more peaceful existence. They settled in El Paso, Texas, where Pat's mother grew up in a Spanish-speaking household while attending an English-speaking school. Her name was Estelita at home, but Stella at school. She often played the role of translator between these two worlds.
One generation later, Pat Mora grew up in a bilingual home and attended an English-speaking school. It was only many years later – once she began writing – that Mora realized her Mexican heritage had never really been welcomed at school. Through writing, she has now been able to explore and rediscover her Mexican heritage and bicultural upbringing.
As an adult, Pat Mora has worked as a teacher, a university administrator, and a consultant on U.S.-Mexico cultural exchanges. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship allowed her to shift her primary focus to writing. Mora has now written over 25 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for children and adults. She has received numerous honors, including three Southwest Book Awards and a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship.
In addition to writing, Pat Mora travels around the country, speaks at conferences, visits schools, and promotes literacy for Hispanic children. She and her husband spend part of the year in Kentucky and part of the year in New Mexico.