Brazilian Children’s Day teaches community families about Brazilian culture


Brian Bauer

Children work on paper snakes and learn about the Amazon rainforest at the Champaign Library on Oct. 7th for Children’s Day, a popular holiday celebrated in Brazil on the 12th.

By Isabella Arquilla, Staff writer

The Champaign Public Library transformed into a Brazilian paradise for children, Saturday

Children and their parents headed to the library at 3 p.m. to celebrate “dia de das criancas” or in English, “Children’s Day.”

Vivian Felicīo Dixon, organizer of the event, stood on the mini stage in the pavilion. In front of her sat children of all ages and behind them, their parents, all in anticipation of what the next hour would hold.

The event started with Dixon asking the children what they knew about Brazil. Children raised their hands to proudly shout the answers.

Dixon then announced that the students would be learning Portuguese, Brazil’s national language. But before she began, she wanted them to know that they already knew a little Portuguese without even knowing it.

Dixon and other parents held up cards with different Portuguese vocabulary and pictures that matched. English words like “skate,” “art” and “video games” were very similar, if not a replica, of they are in Portuguese.

The event also included a musical called “Os Saltimbancos,” inspired by a book called “The Town Musicians of Bremen.” This musical features different animals on an adventure.

Katrina Pollitt, librarian at the Champaign Public Library, said she was impressed by the musical.

“It is always cute seeing the kids and seeing the excitement of what they’re doing,” Pollitt said.

Pollitt said she thinks cultural events like this one are important to the C-U community.

“Our community is very diverse and is a multicultural community that really embraces music from all over the world, and who doesn’t like music? Anyone can get into a tune and follow along,” Pollitt said. “You don’t have to speak the same language, you can just follow the rhythm.”

Dixon invited the kids to stand up and follow along with the music; she even encouraged them to invite their parents to come and dance. The songs centered around animals, one song with goofy animal sounds and another featuring a cobra dance.

It was pure fun as Dixon and parents put on hats representing different animals. They took turns asking the children what noise each animal makes and then they shared with the group the noise each animal makes in Brazil. 

After the main events, the roughly 90 attendees were free to roam about the different tables in the pavilion that each featured a different activity.

The activities were designed for children to learn more about the Brazilian culture and the Portuguese language. This included games like “fishing for letters,” where kids could “fish” for letters to make a word in English or Portuguese. A crowd favorite was the food table featuring “pão de queijo,” or cheese bread, and “brigadeiro,” Brazil’s most beloved treat.

Alex Albors has attended the Champaign Public Library for about five years and brought his children to the event. Among the activities, Albors’ children enjoyed decorating paper frogs. Frogs were a popular event theme because the Amazon rainforest sits in the heart of Brazil.

The Champaign library welcomed the Brazilian Children’s Day celebration five years ago. The event was revived when Dixon reached out to the library last January.

“Because of the great amount of parents here in C-U, we are restarting these programs and activities and also involving play and fun activities,” Dixon said. “But we are trying to focus on a little bit of literacy skills and Portuguese.”

Dixon came from Brazil to complete her master’s in linguistics and English as a second language as well as earn her Ph.D. in literacy and bilingual education. She currently works at the Urbana Adult Education Center and with bilingual education programs around town. She works to keep language and culture alive.

When Dixon first arrived on campus there was not much of a Brazilian community; however, in the past decade, she said the number of Brazilian families in the area has increased. With that, Brazilian immersion in the United States came to a concern about keeping the culture and language alive.

“There are many children that have been living in Champaign-Urbana that have already lost the Portuguese language,” Dixon said. “They understand but they can’t speak anymore and some parents came to me. They showed concern about that because they are now here living in Champaign.”

Dixon said she believes the activities planned last Saturday and other events help unite the parents together to overcome that challenge and to keep the language and culture alive.

She has worked to create these events everywhere from elementary schools in Champaign, to contributing to some ideas and projects from Brazil.

“Even if we are not proposing activities, we try to partner with our friends around the community and provide some resources that I have here in my house and try to help them to do many other activities relating to Brazil or Portuguese or Latin America,” Dixon said.

While one of Dixon’s goals is to keep the language and culture of Brazil alive, she also emphasizes that attending these events can broaden any child’s horizon and help them learn and grow as individuals.

Dixon thinks it is important to share cultures and experiences with children since the community is made up of people from all over the world. She said children can learn when they are little that everyone speaks different languages and comes from different cultures. 

“I’m sure kids that speak Spanish or French that were there yesterday, they were also able to recognize the similarities between their languages,” Dixon said.

Saturday’s event involved fun and games because that is how Dixon believes children can learn best.

“I think that it is very important that when you are working with kids you have activities that involve listening, the visual, try to bring that,” Dixon said. “(We used) activities that involve creativity and we tried to think of a lot of activities that would blend them together and also instigate kids’ curiosity and maybe make them notice how similar languages are.”

Dixon hopes to keep the tradition of the collaboration with the library going and to perhaps make Brazilian Children’s Day a yearly event.

These activities were not just made possible by Dixon, but also by parents who had a great part in it.

“Everyone that volunteered to do a little had a part in it,” Dixon said. “Some parents put together the puzzles, because it is hard to find materials from past years, brought something to share in terms of food and some other parents came up with the idea of singing songs and we all brainstormed together and based on their feedback we tried to work together.”

[email protected]